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Pantomimes: Kyrgios—and then Simon—impersonate Nadal's serving routine
The Aussie and the Spaniard, polar opposities in personality and playing style, could meet in the fourth round.
Published Jan 24, 2020
They can't meet until the fourth round, but the mind game between Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal is already underway.
During Kyrgios' second-round match with Gilles Simon on Thursday, played at the same time Nadal faced Federico Delbonis, the Aussie was given a time violation while serving. Some players would shrug it off, take their medicine and prepare to serve again. Others would argue with the chair umpire, pleading for leniency. Kyrgios is not either of those types of players.
As only he can, Kyrgios took the time to reference a player who has a penchant for receiving time violations, Nadal. Or, in the eyes of Kyrgios, not receiving enough of them.
Regardless of his perspective, Kyrgios used the opportunity to impersonate Nadal's tic-heavy service routine, to the delight of the crowd in Melbourne—as well as the chair umpire.
"Nick is fearless about Rafa," the New York Times' Christopher Clarey said the next day on Tennis Channel Live. "He knows it affects him."
The pantomime even inspired Simon, who gave the crowd a "Rafa" of his own:
After the match, Kyrgios was asked whose imitation was better.
"I don't know. I don't wear underwear, so... probably Gilles'," said Kyrgios, who won in four sets and will next face Karen Khachanov.
Nadal, who will face Pablo Carreno Busta in the thirid round, was asked about the gesture after his straight-sets win.
"I really don't care," Nadal said. "I am here to play tennis. Honestly, I don't care at all. If was funny, good. That's it."
Nadal is 4-3 against Kyrgios, with their last meeting in last year's Wimbledon second round. In a bit of delayed revenge for their first encounter, in 2014 at Wimbledon—when a 19-year-old, 144th-ranked Kyrgios won in four sets—Nadal prevailed, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).
Clarey had the last word on the topic, and one that suggests that Kyrgios' gamesmanship could play a factor in the potential game against Nadal, should it come to fruition.
"Within Nick's dynamic, I guess it works," Clarey said.