Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 6, 2022 Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his quarter final match against Taylor Fritz of the U.S. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY | HANNAH MCKAY

The first time Nick Kyrgios faced Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon eight years ago the unseeded teenager blew the then world number one off court in the fourth round with a spellbinding display of fearless grasscourt tennis.

Five years later Nadal evened the score in a stormy second-round match in which Kyrgios, with his bad boy reputation firmly established, moaned about the Mallorcan's slow play and launched a ferocious forehand straight into his body.

Australian Kyrgios recalled again this week how his manager had to drag him out of a club at 4am on the eve of that clash.

There is little chance a search party will be needed this time ahead of the pair's third clash at the All England Club in what will be the biggest match of Kyrgios's career.


The 27-year-old's path to his first Grand Slam semi-final has been a rocky one. A first-round five-setter against British wildcard Paul Jubb resulted in a fine for spitting, while his third-round blockbuster against fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was one of the most toxic ever seen at Wimbledon.

Kyrgios revealed his good, bad and ugly side in that bad-tempered clash, after which his opponent and former doubles partner described him as having an evil side to his nature.

Since then, however, Kyrgios, once accused of disrespecting the sport by Nadal, has let his tennis do the talking and a switch appears to have been flicked.

Fully-focussed and keeping his trick shots in the bag, Kyrgios survived a five-setter against Brandon Nakashima, then overpowered Chile's Cristian Garin who described the Kyrgios serve as the best he had ever faced.

Kyrgios said his semi-final against 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal would "probably be the most-watched match of all time" and while that might be over-egging it slightly, Wimbledon is buzzing with anticipation.

It is a clash of styles and personality like no other.
Nadal, who practised today despite fears that an abdominal injury might rule him out, is known for his meticulous rituals between points. Kyrgios barely blinks.

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Ultimate warrior Nadal, as he proved against Taylor Fritz on Wednesday, would rather pull out his own teeth with pliers than give up a single point. Kyrgios freely admits 'tanking' games just to throw his opponent off.

Nadal, twice a Wimbledon champion, reveres the sport's traditions and throughout his mind-boggling career has been the ultimate ambassador for tennis. Kyrgios once said he doesn't even like tennis and enjoys nothing more than taking swipes at the establishment, on and off the court.

Nadal, 36, leads 6-3 in their head-to-head and will know that a fired-up Kyrgios has the ability to wreck his quest for a calendar-year Slam, especially if he is struggling physically.

"Who is the nightmare opponent when you are feeling like this? Novak Djokovic, yes. But also Nick Kyrgios," seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander told Eurosport.

"He is an unbelievable magician with a racket."
The unknown factor, however, is how world number 40 Kyrgios will react to being the first Australian man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final for 17 years.

"I think there is more pressure on Kyrgios than in 2014 because now there is a feeling that he can do it," Nadal's compatriot Alex Corretja said. "It will be interesting to see how he deals with it."

So much attention is focussed on the Kyrgios v Nadal showdown that Britain's Cameron Norrie continues to avoid the full glare of the spotlight as he prepares to take on top seed Novak Djokovic in the other semi-final.

Djokovic, bidding for a fourth successive Wimbledon title and seventh in total, looks the clear favourite to lift the trophy on Sunday and salvage what has been a difficult year.

But ninth seed Norrie, the fourth British man to reach the semi-finals in the professional era, will not be intimidated and with the Centre Court crowd roaring him on anything is possible.

"It's one of the tougher tasks in tennis, I'm going to have to definitely raise my level and raise my level of focus to have a shot with him," Norrie said.