Nick Kyrgios has once again declared his love for the tennis lawns and is scenting the prospect of earning his maiden triumph on the grass courts of Germany this week.
The Australian enjoyed one of the biggest wins of his chequered 2022 season at Halle on Wednesday, coming from a set down to knock out Stefanos Tsitsipas in a thrilling duel and reach the quarter-finals of the pre-Wimbledon event.
It was a typical Kyrgios affair, full of off-court strife and on-court brilliance, with the 27-year-old finally overcoming a one-set deficit, two code violations and a heated row with the umpire before beating the Greek superstar 5-7 6-2 6-4.
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It even featured the Aussie receiving a warning for taking too long to get into position to face Tsitsipas’s serve in the second set, which prompted him to tell reporters incredulously afterwards: “He said I was playing too slow – statistically I’m one of the fastest!”
“I had to walk to the sidelines to get my towel. There is this thing called sweat in 30 Celsius heat that runs down onto your hands. I needed to wipe my hands – and he gave me a warning.”
With a new tattoo on his left leg bearing the Oscar Wilde-inspired nugget, ‘Give a man a mask and he will become his true self’, it still wasn’t clear who the real Kyrgios is as he offered up his familiar mix of the unfathomably baffling and unfathomably brilliant.
He was remarkably tetchy early on, moaning about ill-timed coughs and unmuted mobiles in the crowd, yet afterwards he was beaming as he enthused just how much he’d enjoyed being spurred on by the German fans.
“The support I get from crowds around the world is amazing. They want me to go out and put on a show,” he said.
“I’m happy to still be able to produce this level with the tournaments I play. It is a testament to how hard I do work when I’m not playing.”
Indeed, it was on days like this when Kyrgios looks like he can beat anybody on grass, firing astonishing forehand winners seemingly from all parts of the court.
And he was again coming up with shots that seemingly only he can play, like the behind-the-back forehand retrieval off a full-blooded Tsitsipas tracer that seemed to put the astonished Greek off his stride.
Asked if he felt this might be the week he finally wins his first tournament on grass after six career triumphs on hard courts, Kyrgios smiled: “Well, it doesn’t help that there’s only four, five weeks a year on grass.
“If there were as many grass-court tournaments in Australia as there are clay-court tournaments in Europe, I’d never leave Australia!”
He certainly believes he can beat anyone left in the draw, including his quarter-final opponent on Friday, Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, who he’s beaten twice before, including six years ago at the Australian Open.
“I feel like I’m one of the best on the grass and hopefully maybe it will be this week,” shrugged Kyrgios.
“But it’s one round at a time and we’ll see how it goes.”