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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, July 4, 2022

 
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Nick Kyrgios cracked 35 aces out-dueling Brandon Nakashima in five sets to reach his second career Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Photo credit: Getty

Centre Court fans could still smell the smolder from Nick Kyrgios’ scorched-earth stunner over Stefanos Tsitsipas in a wild Wimbledon Saturday night.

Today, a calm Kyrgios was convincing closer.

More: Garin's Dark Winter Prelude to Breakout Summer 

Rocketing 35 aces, Kyrgios beat Brandon Nakashima 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-2 to advance to his second career Wimbledon quarterfinal.

In contrast to the tennis tempest Kyrgios unleashed on Tsitsipas, which left the fourth-seeded Greek blasting the Aussie as “a bully” with “an evil side,” Kyrgios confided his pyrotechnics to his shot-making, including throwing down 130 mph missiles that rocked the back wall, and credited his willingness to dig in and fight for that final set as the difference.

"For me, I knew from the get-go I wasn't playing as well as I would have liked," Kyrgios said. "I wasn't feeling the ball like I was against Tsitsipas or Krajinovic. I knew I had to keep my head down and just battle today. It was a good mental performance.

"At the end of the fourth, complete rope-a-dope tactic. I just threw away that service game. I knew he was in a rhythm. He was starting to get on top of me. I kind of just wanted to throw him off a little bit. It worked."




It is Kyrgios’ third career Grand Slam quarterfinal and first since the 2015 Australian Open quarterfinal. While Kyrgios has earned a reputation as both a titanic talent and supreme slacker, he’s been a convincing closer in five-setters.

Tanking the final game of the fourth set today, Kyrgios convinced himself his dominance going the distance would be decisive.

It was.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios raised his five-set record to 11-3 overall, including a perfect 6-0 mark in five setters at The Championships. Kyrgios has gone the distance twice in four wins this week, including his three-hour, five-minute win over British wild card Paul Jubb in his opener.

“I played a lot of tennis in the last month and a half and I’m just proud of the way I steadied the ship,” Kyrgios said in his on-court interview. “He came firing in the fourth set, his level dropped and my five-set record is pretty good.

“Honestly, that’s what I was thinking about, I’ve never lost a five-set match here. So honestly that’s what I was thinking about. I’ve been here before, I’ve done it before and I came through again today.”

This was a calm after the chaotic storm Kyrgios delivered against Tsitsipas. It’s a performance that makes you wonder how far Kyrgios can go if he stays healthy—the Aussie twice took treatment for a sore shoulder today—and sane—see his theatrics vs. Tsitsipas and his spitting at a taunting fan at the end of his opening-round win—the rest of the tournament. Kyrgios improved his grass-court record to an ATP-best 11-2 in 2022.

Next up for Kyrgios is a glass of celebratory wine and a first meeting with Cristian Garin.

Three Aussies started today’s fourth round of play, but Garin played heart-breaker rallying from two sets down and saving match points to topple 19th-seeded Aussie Alex de Minaur, 2-6, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6[10-6], becoming the first man to prevail from a two-set deficit at these championships.

Gain also saved two match points, while serving from 15-40 at 4-5 in the fifth set.




“I was really excited to play de Minaur, to be honest,” Kyrgios said. “I came on court when he was two sets to love up. So I was actually expecting to play him, but I’m not even gonna think about that. I need a glass of wine for sure tonight, for sure.” 

Playing at Wimbledon for just the second time in his career, Nakashima didn't wilt against the Kyrgios attack.

Ultimately, the Aussie's superior speed around the court saw Kyrgios extend a few key rallies and his skill serving with ambition and margin—Kyrgios served 74 percent with just three double faults while Nakashima served 59 percent committing nine double faults—proved pivotal.

While Kyrgios’ laser serve was the clearly biggest shot on the court, Nakashima served with authority stamping a pair of love holds as he built a 5-4 lead.

Walking to his chair on the changeover, Kyrgios was massaging his serving shoulder as if trying to knead out a knotted muscle.

Serving at 4-5, Kyrgios cracked. Handcuffed by a Nakashima return, Kyrgios reflexed a forehand long to face triple break point. Sailing another forehand, Kyrgios gifted the break as Nakashima snatched a one-set lead after 28 minutes.

Nakashima wisely played some returns right back through the middle occasionally catching Kyrgios flat-footed. The Aussie skimmed the net with a forehand to save break point and hold for 1-all in the second set.

Off to an ideal start, Nakashima suddenly couldn’t land his first serve. The world No. 56 hit his fourth double fault then floated a shanked forehand off the frame to gift the break and a 2-1 lead.

On the ensuring changeover, the trainer gave Kyrgios some pain tablets to try to soothe the sting of his shoulder strain. Speeding through a 62-second hold, Kyrgios carved a dropper and blocked volley backing up the break for 3-1.

Despite the cranky shoulder, Kyrgios slashed nine aces in the second set scalding successive first serves to level the match.

Credit Nakashima for concentrating on his own side of the net, playing points with thoughtful care and continuing to take care of business on serve. After Nakashima held for a 3-2 third-set lead, Kyrgios leaned over and rubbed the back of his right shoulder before taking another medical timeout. The trainer rubbed cream into Kyrgios’ serving shoulder while his support box offered encouragement.

After about a six-minute break, Kyrgios returned holding to level after six games.

"I mean, he was still serving fine after the medical timeout, still ripping the ball," Nakashima said. "So I don't think it was that big of an injury. I don't know. I mean, that's up to him."

The 20-year-old Nakashima showed stoic focus toppling another temperamental talent—2021 semifinalist Denis Shapovalov—in round two. Nakashima matched Kyrgios permitting just five points on serve heading into the crucial third-set tiebreaker.

Contesting his first major fourth round match, Nakashima blinked hitting his eight double fault to cede the mini break and a 3-1 lead. Kyrgios cranked a 129 mph ace out wide—his 25th ace—for 4-2. Should no signs of shoulder stress, Kyrgios rocketed a 120 mph second serve down the T for 5-2 then blocked a backhand return winner down the line for set points a 6-2.

Kyrgios closed curling a crosscourt forehand return to take the third set with a fist pump. Nakashima stood toe-to-toe with the 2014 quarterfinalist for nearly three full sets but Kyrgios elevated his dynamic attack in the tiebreaker.

Tennis Express

Throughout grass season we’ve seen Kyrgios wrecking ball serve and unsettling touch confound opponents. Serving to start the fourth set today, Kyrgios played his best defensive point of the day extending a 17-shot exchange with a couple of stretch, slice forehands and drawing the error. Kyrgios cranked a 130 mph ace sealing his first hold at deuce since the first game of the second set.

The rapid-fire action of Kyrgios' serve motion makes his his delivery both deceptive and destructive.

"I think he disguised it pretty well. It's tough to read his serve when he tosses the ball up," Nakashima said. "Obviously he could hit all the spots out there, different speeds, different spins.

"Yeah, it's a little bit tough to read sometimes, but I felt like today I was returning pretty well for the most part when I got a racquet on it and creating some opportunities on his service games."

A patient Nakashima stared through a torrent of twisting serves waiting for his moment.

It came in the seventh game when Kyrgios missed a couple of forehands. Nakashima hit a deep return down the middle and Kyrgios misfired on a backhand conceding the beak largely of his own doing.

Though the pair had only played two-and-a-half hours to that point, Kyrgios inexplicably tanked the final game of the fourth set. Rather than dig in and hold and at least force his 20-year-old opponent to serve it out, Kyrgios tossed in a few first serves in the 70 mph range, an underarm serve and on set point whacked a wild forehand long capitulating the fourth set.

Not only did Nakashima’s back-to-back breaks level the match, it empowered him to serve first to start the last set. Nakashima surged through five straight games going up 1-0 in the decider. Rallying from 15-30 down, Kyrgios used a fine sliding drop volley and forehand pass to snap his five-game slide and get on the board.

Predicated on a brief backswing, the Kyrgios is a tough shot to read and an even tough stroke to hit through for opponents. Kyrgios angled off a sharp-angled backhand return for a second break point. Digging in, Kyrgios made the young American play and drew a flat forehand into net breaking for 2-1.

We know all about Kyrgios’ menacing power and magical touch, but his smoother movement was a key component to his fifth-set streak. Kyrgios consistently beat Nakashima to the ball in the decider spinning a sprinting forehand to set up a backhand winner for his second straight break.

Swatting his 31st ace on a second serve, Kyrgios seized his fourth game in a row.

A slick serve-and-volley ended a composed three hour, 11-minute win sending Kyrgios into his first-ever meeting with Garin. Should seeds hold true to form, Kyrgios is on a collision course with 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, whom he beat on Centre Court en route to his 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinal.

"I stepped out here against one of the greatest of all time and beat Nadal these are all things I have in the back of my mind," Kyrgios said. "Obviously, Brandon hasn’t played on this court that much so all these experiences I've had I think that’s what helped me get over the line."

 

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