The Dog and Fox pub in Wimbledon can no longer expect the early-hours custom of Nick Kyrgios.
To be a semi-finalist at Wimbledon is a special accomplishment for anyone but especially for me, if you had asked anyone if I could do that, they would have said No Nick Kyrgios
And the Australian views his abstinence from such activities as a sign of how far he has come.
Kyrgios is scheduled to face Rafa Nadal – with indications on Thursday afternoon the two-time champion will play despite a medical examination revealing a 7mm tear in his abdomen – in his first Wimbledon semi-final after beating Cristian Garin.
The controversial unseeded Australian was beaten by the Spaniard in a match which followed his visit to the London SW19 hostelryin 2019.
Kyrgios said: “My agent had to come to force me out of a pub at 4am to play Nadal, second round, on Centre Court, Wimbledon. I’ve come a long way, that’s for sure.
“I’ve got an incredible support crew. My physio is one of my best friends. My best friend is my agent. I’ve got the best girlfriend (Costeen Hatzi) 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 feeling good, feeling composed, feeling mature, having that around me, I’m extremely blessed
“I just feel like I’ve been through so much. I feel like I’m able to stay more composed.
“There was a point I was almost done with the sport. I posted last year about the mental state I was in 2019. I was self-harming, I had suicidal thoughts.
“To be a semi-finalist at Wimbledon is a special accomplishment for anyone but especially for me, if you had asked anyone if I could do that, they would have said No.
“Doesn’t have the mental capacity, doesn’t have the physical capacity, doesn’t have the stamina. It’s been a rocky road to here.
“At the start of the year I didn’t know if I wanted to play a proper schedule. I’d lost the love, I’d lost the spark.”
But it seems Kyrgios still has the ability to attract notoriety, a quality which has characterised his campaign at the latest renewal of the world’s greatest tournament.
News broke on the eve of his meeting with Garin that he had been charged with an alleged assault of an ex-girlfriend back home and scheduled to be in court next month, the Australian media has reported.
He said: “I read about it and everyone else was asking questions. It was hard. t was hard to kind of just focus on kind of the mission at hand. It was quarter finals of Wimbledon. I know deep down that’s what I was prepared for. It didn’t really affect my preparation at all. I knew I stayed true to myself and gave my best performance.”
It follows the 27-year-old defying the all-white clothes rules of the event by donning red trainers and matching peaked cap courtside after overcoming American Brandon Nakashima in the fourth round.
He said: “I do what I want. I’m not above the rules, I just like wearing my Jordans (trainers). It’s more attention for me. What’s that saying? Any publicity is good publicity, right?”
That was on top of a stormy third-round victory against fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in which he received a warning for an audible obscenity while constantly talking in unflattering terms to the umpire at almost every change over.
And it led to Greek Tsitsipas losing his rag and twice thumping the ball out of court with his opponent calling for him to be defaulted.
He had earned criticism and a $10,000 fine for spitting at a “disrespectful” spectator earlier in the tournament.
Even his girlfriend Hatzi has been gently knocked for being accredited as a “player’s trainer” which has allowed her access to most areas at the All England Club, including the practice courts at Aorangi.
Pundits and writers have had a field day writing about the Bad Boy of Tennis, comparing him to the behaviour of John McEnroe on the hallowed lawns many moons ago.
Kyrgios, though, has attracted support from a surprise source, Toni Nadal, the uncle and former coach to Rafa, the winner of 22 Slams.
The Australian has been critical of Nadal’s slow play while the Spaniard has been reported to feel Kyrgios can be “disrespectful”.
But Toni Nadal, referring to the Tsitsipas match, said on Noticiero.lat website: “On some occasions, I have been critical of the Australian as a result of his rudeness, his unsportsmanlike attitudes, his recurrent outbursts or his unfortunate comments. On this occasion, however, I think the blunder … is attributable to the Greek player.
“It is true that Kyrgios is too annoying, provocative and that he can easily drive his opponents out of their mind. However, I was greatly surprised Tsitsipas couldn’t deal with those situations. It is clear that Tsitsipas acted to his own detriment, lacking in the habit of dealing with those situations in which a player feels … unable to control his emotions and his nervousness.”
Kyrgios is aware he has an army of tennis fans who like him.
He said: “I sit here now (still in the tournament) and I just know there’s so many people that are so upset.”
The 27-year-old is not tipping himself for the title.
He said: “I’m not thinking about lifting a trophy. I’m just thinking about my habits every day, just trying to put in a good performance on the court, then put in a good practice session, try to stay positive, try to really separate.
“You know, once I’m off the court, enjoy time with my team, my girlfriend, and just really enjoy that, then get into the game mode.”
Nadal, chasing a rare calendar Grand Slam, started his campaign at the All England Club slowly but is now in the groove as he hunts a third Wimbledon crown.
Nadal, who beat American 11th seed Taylor Fritz over five gruelling sets carrying his injury for most of it, has been shaking the rust out in his first Wimbledon in three years.
The last of his titles came in 2010 but he is clearly in the mood to complete a major hat-trick in 2022 after lifting the Australian and French Opens.
Second seed Nadal, with the proviso he is not forced to give Kyrgios a walkover, said: “I think I continued in a positive way until the end where I played a bad game. In a personal way, for me to be able to be in the tournament after three years. It’s amazing for me so very, very happy.”
Kyrgios compatriot Lleyton Hewitt, a former Wimbledon champion, believes his compatriot has an advantage over his rival.
He said to Eurosport: “Nick can play with chaos going on. Not many people can, but he can. We’ve seen at the (2022) Australian Open) in the doubles (helping to win the title) when it was a big scene like that, that is when he plays his best tennis. His opponents have to be prepared for that. They know at some stage in a lot of matches stuff like that is going to happen.
“You have to keep on going. Stefanos played him only two weeks ago in Stuttgart so it’s nothing surprising for him there. Nick, the way he is serving, is going to be tough to beat for everyone.”
Former Aussie doubles ace Todd Woodbridge added. “The pressure swings and there will be a lot more pressure and expectation on Nick every time he goes out there now for the rest of the tournament.”
* Mike Donovan has written the book The Jimmy Greaves We Knew: The Authorised Celebration of a National Treasure which is out on Pitch Publishing on 19 September, 2022, the first anniversary of Greaves’ passing. Donovan has also written a Tennis Threads special edition on Andy Murray called Murray: Magnificent, Momentous and Memorable Achievements.