Nick Kyrgios set the tone on Tuesday for a Wimbledon blockbuster with bitter rival Rafael Nadal by stating: “We have mutual respect – but that’s about it.”
Kyrgios opened his Wimbledon campaign with a 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 7-6 (12/10), 0-6, 6-1 win over fellow Australian Jordan Thompson.
However, all attention was on his second round duel with Nadal after the two-time champion defeated Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.
“Not sure that me and Rafa could go down to the Dog and Fox and have a drink together. I don’t know him at all. I know him as a tennis player,” said Kyrgios.
“I get along with people. Some people I don’t get along with. We have a mutual respect – but that’s about it, I think.”
Nadal and Kyrgios have been involved in a bitter war of words this year since the Australian defeated the 18-time major champion in a stormy clash in Acapulco.
It was the Australian’s third win over Nadal in six meetings.
Nadal accused his opponent of “lacking respect” after serving underarm, while Kyrgios described the Spaniard as “super salty” and being his “polar opposite”.
Kyrgios then became involved in a slanging match with Toni Nadal, the world number two’s uncle and former coach, who lambasted the Australian for his on-court behaviour.
Toni Nadal suggested it was the action of a man who lacks education.
“Bro, I did 12 years at school you idiot – I’m very educated. I understand you’re upset that I beat your family,” Kyrgios hit back in an interview.
However, Nadal refused to add fuel to the fire on Tuesday ahead of Thursday’s clash.
“I am too old to get into all this stuff,” the 33-year-old said.
“I believed in what I said but I am not going to get into a fight with anyone.”
Kyrgios admitted he was excited about the chance to prove himself against Nadal.
“I can’t wait. As soon as the draw came out, I was super happy that I saw him in my section.
“When you’re a kid, you want to play the best players in the world on I think it’s the best court in the world.
“This is something that I can’t take for granted. There’s no guarantee I’m going to be here again in this position.
“Could have an injury or something like that. I’m going to grasp with both hands, go out there, give it my best shot.”
Kyrgios, who famously stunned Nadal as a 144-ranked wildcard on his Wimbledon tournament debut in 2014, put in a typically raucous and charismatic display on Court Three on Tuesday.
In a match where he fired 23 aces and 63 winners, the 24-year-old argued with the umpire, slumped over the net and played dead.
He also shaped to imitate a forward defensive cricket shot and celebrated a point by running around madly in a circle.
After dropping the second set, he needed a medical timeout for a leg injury before attempting – and failing – to finish the third set with an underarm serve.
He eventually took the set on an eighth set point before conceding an 18-minute fourth set in which he collected just five points.
However, two breaks in a more composed decider settled the tie and set the stage for one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament.