A banner day of men’s matches will be capped by this much-anticipated showdown between the sport’s least likely beer-drinking buddies. Not too surprisingly, Kyrgios has traveled a bumpier road to their late-night collision. On Saturday, he let a two-set lead slip against Karen Khachanov, and came within two points of defeat in a fifth-set match tiebreaker, before rallying at the 11th hour. Speaking of tiebreakers, it seems safe to say there will be a couple of them when Kyrgios faces Nadal, and that they will prove decisive.
In 2019, the Spaniard and the Aussie met two times, and they played two breakers in each of those matches. The first time, in Acapulco, Kyrgios raised his level and won both. The second time, at Wimbledon, Kyrgios’ level dropped while Nadal remained steady. If the result is decided by just a few points, who seems more likely to win them? Kyrgios will be buoyed by an arena full of supporters, and by a chance to help his countrymen by winning. Will it be enough to keep him positive if and when things go south? With Nadal, the worry might be his nerves. Openings on Kyrgios’s serve may be few and far between; will he be able to pull the trigger successfully when they present themselves? History says yes. There’s a reason that Kyrgios himself has said this week that Rafa might be the greatest of all time.