Some of us still regard Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios as a rising star, while others believe he should and perhaps could have already achieved much more in the sport, having reached the age of 24 in 2019. He is a phenomenally talented player, of that there’s absolutely no doubt, but this talent is also offset by a temperamental streak.
From one match to the next, we never know quite what we’ll get from Kyrgios, which is perhaps why he’s such an exciting player to watch. These are arguably some of his wildest moments, showcasing some of the good, the bad, and the ugly, during his rise to international stardom.
5. Kyrgios Shocks The World Number One
“An unproven young talent against one of the old masters” in the fourth round, is how the match between Kyrgios and Nadal was billed at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships. The Aussie was 144th in the ATP Men’s tennis rankings, while the Spaniard was seemingly unbeatable and perched at the very top. This was also the first-ever competitive encounter between the two players.
Kyrgios showed nerves of steel, matching Nadal shot for shot in what is still regarded as one of the biggest tennis upsets of all time, especially considering the huge difference between the pair in terms of their respective ATP rankings. Energy, enthusiasm, fighting spirit; Kyrgios had it all and more. This was the biggest moment to date in the fledgling professional career of the young Australian, who celebrated his triumph with an unstoppable serve for match point.
4. Kyrgios Triumphs Against Childhood Hero
In various interviews since Kyrgios turned professional, he has often spoken about the players he most admires in tennis. Imagine how he must have felt when presented with the opportunity to take on his childhood hero, Roger Federer, when the pair met during the third round of the Madrid Masters in 2015.
Federer had won 17 grand slam titles at this point in his career, while Kyrgios was a rapidly rising star in the sport, keen to add another famous scalp and add to his growing giant-killing reputation. Kyrgios set about terrorizing his vastly experienced foe, beating the Swiss star by two sets to one via a crucial tie-break in the final set. Humble in defeat, Federer praised his young rival and admitted he’d struggled to return the powerful first serves of the Aussie.
3. Kyrgios Demolishes Djokovic In Style
Having already demonstrated his unquestionable talent, beating many of the biggest names in tennis, the wait was finally over for Kyrgios in 2017 when at long last, he had the opportunity to face Novak Djokovic. This first encounter between the two arrived in the quarter-finals of the Mexican Open in Acapulco, with the Serbian superstar second in the ATP Tour rankings at the time.
Despite the very best efforts of Djokovic, who battled hard for every point and every game, there was simply no stopping the rocket serves and potent double backhand returns of Kyrgios on the day. There was barely even time for any trademark showboating or tantrums from the young Australian, who put every ounce of his focus and efforts in simply winning the match, producing one of his single greatest performances to date.
2. Kyrgios Tanks Against Gasquet
At the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, 20-year-old Kyrgios looked in great shape and top form, cruising through to the fourth round where he faced Richard Gasquet. Having produced a superb fighting display against the Frenchman at the tournament in 2014, the same year he also beat Rafa Nadal to reach the quarter-finals, the image this time around was completely different.
Despite playing some brilliant tennis on his way to the fourth round, Kyrgios was accused of tanking points against Gasquet during their encounter. That is, deliberately losing points and to all intents and purposes, giving up the match as a lost cause. The Aussie player looked disinterested while losing the first two sets, and although he made a comeback, eventually lost amidst habitual tantrums and even a debate with the chair umpire about a change of socks.
1. Kyrgios Takes Angry Aim At Nadal
Here’s the scenario. It’s the second round at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships, with Kyrgios and Nadal giving it everything to make it through to the third round. The match is tied at one set each and tied at four games apiece in the third set, the pressure mounting as both players try to edge themselves ahead. It’s the most decisive and crucial stage of a finely balanced match between these two fierce rivals.
Nadal serves to further his points advantage and take the game, the crowd at Centre Court vocally backing the Spaniard. Kyrgios isn’t too happy about that and after a brief rally, he appears to smash the ball directly at Nadal, who manages to block the effort with his racquet and loses the points. Nadal glared accusingly at his rival and the crowd showed their displeasure, booing and whistling the Australian.
Kyrgios had already been up to his typical antics, although that moment of madness proved decisive. From there, everything went against him and the tantrums began. The 24-year-old complained about how long Nadal was taking to serve in a foul-mouthed exchange with the chair umpire, then contested numerous line calls. In the end, the Spaniard took the third and fourth sets, narrowly beating Kyrgios 7-6, 7-6 to take the match.
In the post-match press conference, Kyrgios refused to apologize and admitted he’d deliberately aimed to hit Nadal in the chest during the match. He was fined $5000 USD for unsportsmanlike conduct and the verbal outbursts, along with a further $3000 USD for similar protests during his first round Wimbledon encounter with fellow Australian, Jordan Thompson.
Whatever the future holds for Kyrgios, we're sure there'll be plenty more moment to leave us gasping in amazement, or shaking our heads in disbelief; be it making an amazing shot, or throwing another trademark temper tantrum. He has the potential to be one of the best in the world, but only time will tell if he matures to become the player he's genuinely capable of becoming.