Nick Kyrgios is flying on and off court after reaching his first grand slam quarterfinal in seven years in thrilling fashion.
He gave them a decent spray during the match but Nick Kyrgios’ credited his support crew after matching his best ever result at Wimbledon eight years after his memorable run to the quarterfinals.
That includes new partner Costeen Hatzi, who Kyrgios described as “the best girlfriend in the world” after moving one win away from a breakthrough grand slam semi-final with a five-set win against Brandon Nakashima.
The Aussie was troubled by a shoulder complaint throughout his fourth round match against the American but produced his best tennis of the match when it mattered to gut out a 4-6 6-4 7-6 3-6 6-2 win.
“I’ve got an incredible support crew,” Kyrgios said post-match. “My physio is one of my best friends. My best friend is my agent. I’ve got the best girlfriend in the world. I’ve just got so many people around me, they just support me.
“I feel like I can reflect on all those dark times when I pushed them all away. Now to sit here, quarterfinals of Wimbledon, feeling good, feeling composed, feeling mature, having that around me, I’m extremely blessed. I feel like I’m just comfortable in my own skin.”
There was an unseen moment during the fourth set – as Nakashima raised his level – that highlights the growth Kyrgios sees in himself.
The 27-year-old smiled to himself as he prepared to serve, taking a second to savour the tussle he was locked in.
“He was playing really well. I wasn’t playing that great. But I was almost enjoying the competitiveness,” Kyrgios said.
“That’s probably the first time in my career where I wasn’t playing well, regardless of playing Centre Court
Wimbledon, fully packed crowd, (and) I was able to just say, ‘Wow, look how far I’ve come’, to myself. I was bouncing the ball before I served. I really just smiled to myself. I was like, ‘We’re here, we’re competing at Wimbledon, putting in a good performance mentally’.”
Kyrgios admitted it “wasn’t anywhere near my best performance” but his ability to overcome adversity was another achievement.
His shoulder will remain a focus in the next 48 hours as he prepares for a final eight clash against Chile’s Cristian Garin, who upset Alex de Minaur in another five-setter.
But Kyrgios played freely in the deciding set to raise hopes it won’t be an issue.
“I’ve played a lot of tennis in the past month and a half,” he said when asked about an injury that required attention from a physio in the second and third sets.
“I’m proud of the way I steadied the ship. My five-set record is pretty good – that’s what I was thinking about – I’ve never lost a five setter here.”
Kyrgios will play in a grand slam quarterfinal for the first time since the 2015 Australian Open against a clay courter with few credentials on grass ahead of this tournament.
It’s a huge opportunity to reach a semi-final against likely opponent Rafa Nadal but Kyrgios wasn’t looking that far ahead. “I’m not even thinking about that – I need a glass of wine for sure tonight,” he said.
The 27-year-old entered the match a strong favourite to progress to the quarterfinals but dropped the first set as he found Nakashima’s serve difficult to deal with in the early stages of the match.
Kyrgios was only able to return 31 per cent of Nakashima’s first serves in the first set as his opponent held with ease and after taking a 5-4 lead stunned Kyrgios by winning the first three points of the 10th game to create three set points.
He only needed two – and with Kyrgios looking bothered by his shoulder began sniffing a huge upset.
John McEnroe noted in commentary for ESPN how Kyrgios wasn’t serving as hard as he normally does and there was no doubt his play was passive.
The Aussie narrowly avoided falling in an early hole in the second set, fighting off another break point, before earning one of his own for the first time in the match in the following game.
It was a pivotal moment as Nakashima’s first serve deserted him and Kyrgios took advantage to gain a foothold in the match.
The match physio attended the Aussie at the change of ends and handed him what appeared to be pain relief tablets.
Kyrgios rode his serve to level the match at a set apiece but called for the physio again midway through the third set as he sat despondently on the side of the court.
Even with the apparent injury Kyrgios was able to keep holding serve. His ace count passed 20 as he held to level the third set at 4-4 and it wasn’t long before what seemed like a match-defining tie-breaker was upon us.
Nakashima blinked first in the breaker, handing Kyrgios a 3-1 advantage with a double fault.
Two big serves and two spectacular returns later Kyrgios had secured it 7-2 as his hopes of a brave victory soared.
As Kyrgios moved ahead de Minaur went down 2-6 5-7 7-6 6-4 7-6 against Garin to ruin hopes of an all-Aussie quarterfinal.
But Nakashima seized an opening in the seventh game of the fourth set to secure a rare break of serve and lead 4-3.
Kyrgios sprayed someone sitting in his player box at the change of ends, berating them for unimaginative advice.
“I’m trying – obviously – to make a first serve, so stop saying that!” Kyrgios said.
Nakashima held for 5-3 and from that point the set was lost as Kyrgios handed over another break without much resistance to send the match to a fifth set.
Kyrgios was the first to fire a shot in the decider, breaking Nakashima in the third game to take a 2-1 lead.
The Aussie looked as spry as he had all match while moving ahead 3-1 – jumping high off the ground to smash an overhead winner and ripping his serve.
His shoulder issue appeared to be a distant memory as he broke again to go up 4-1 before serving out the match in style.
Originally published as Nick Kyrgios hails ‘best girlfriend in the world’ after storming into Wimbledon quarterfinals