For better or worse, no personality has burned brighter at this year’s Wimbledon than Nick Kyrgios. That included his tactics in the fourth round on Monday.
Facing unseeded American Brandon Nakashima, Kyrgios found himself grinding more than he previously had in the tournament, in which he has already notched arguably the biggest win of his career against No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Kyrgios was dropped the first set, won the next two, then fell behind a break in the fourth.
Down 5-3 and serving with a chance to extend the set, Kyrgios did something rather odd. The usually fearsome server dialed back his serve down to half his usual velocity, missed shots wildly and thrown in an underhand serve, per Sporting News. Nakashima jumped to a 40-0 lead, then took the set on this third set point.
Some speculated Kyrgios had tanked the game, especially after he broke Nakashima twice in the fifth set to take a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 win. As it turned out, they were right.
Speaking with reporters after the match, Kyrgios confirmed he intentionally conceded the end of the fourth set to throw off Nakashima, who defeated No. 13 seed Denis Shapovalov to reach the fourth round.
“I knew from the get-go I wasn’t playing as well as I would have liked. I wasn’t feeling the ball like I was against Tsitsipas or Krajinović, so I knew I had to just keep my head down and 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, because I knew he was in a rhythm. He was starting to get on top of me and I kinda just wanted to throw him off a little bit. It worked.”
Kyrgios also noted a shoulder issue threw him off at the beginning of the match and, because this is Nick Kyrgios, clashed with a reporter who aggressively confronted him over a perceived violation of the Wimbledon dress code.
With Monday’s win, Kyrgios advanced to the second Wimbledon quarterfinal of his career, and his first since his breakthrough performance in 2014. He will face Chile’s Cristian Garín, ranked No. 43 in the world, for the chance at reaching the first Grand Slam semifinal of his career.