‘Bad boy’ Nick Kyrgios on being told he is not good enough, slippery courts, giving tips to Venus Williams

Nick Kyrgios post-match celebration

He spent the past few months on the sidelines, but Nick Kyrgios made a successful return to competitive tennis on Wednesday as he beat Ugo Humbert in five sets to secure his place in the second round at Wimbledon.

The Australian, who kicked off his Wimbledon campaign without playing at any warm-up events, started his match against the Humbert on Tuesday, but a curfew meant the match could only finish the following day.

Kyrgios, though, emerged victorious with a 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 9-7 victory and during his on-court interview he admitted “it was an easy decision” to travel north for Wimbledon, saying: “Not too bad for a part-time player. But it didn’t take much to get me off the couch in Canberra. I love playing Wimbledon, I heard there was a crowd here, so it was an easy decision.”

And later in his post-match press conference he talked about arriving in the United Kingdom only a few days before the start of Wimbledon, life in the bubble and teaming up with the legendary Venus Williams in the mixed doubles at SW19.

Q. What day did you actually arrive in the UK? I know most players would probably have a tough time getting ready in that short space. You obviously had confidence you’d be able to bring your level right away. What was it like to make that short turnaround?

NICK KYRGIOS: “I got here four days before the event started. I’m not sure what day that was.

“Yeah, look, a lot of people were telling me there’s no chance, there’s no point in you going with that short preparation. I was hearing a load of things.

“I think it was Gilbert telling me, There’s no chance you can come off the couch and compete at this level against players.

“I’m like, Dude, I know my game, I know how to play on grass. I’m not scared of anyone in the draw. I know if I believe and I’m feeling good mentally, like, I know what I’m capable of.

“I know that three, four days, a week, doesn’t matter for me. A week preparation is not going to change. I’ve been playing this sport since I was seven years old. Like, three, two days, I could have two days, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to go out there and give it. I’m going to serve big and play big, and just compete.

“Like the amount of people who told me my preparation was not good enough, you’re not good enough or anything, I don’t really care what anyone says. I’m my own person. I prepare the way I prepare and it worked.”

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Q. If I may take you back to the slipping incident. I know you were saying you’d play on one leg if you had to. Has there been much talk among the field at-large about everybody slipping over? You mentioned Serena, and Novak slipped a couple of times. Are there some concerns, curiosity, about why it’s happening, some worries about players getting seriously injured, that someone may have to play on one leg perhaps?

NICK KYRGIOS: “Yeah, I mean, look, I don’t think the rain helps, especially the outside courts. When the grass gets slippery, a bit unpredictable where the grass is a little slippery, where you can’t really see any of that stuff.

“Look, it’s just sometimes what happens on the grass. Especially I think the game’s evolved now where there’s so many rallies and players are so capable of making so many returns, making that extra ball, where the body’s actually not supposed to be in those positions type thing. People slip over and injuries happen.

“The load as well. Like, these players have played a lot of matches. The tennis schedule is brutal, it’s absolutely brutal. You have the French Open, straight on the grass, and you’re just expected to bring out your best tennis from week to week.

“Look, I don’t know if there’s a solution. It just is what it is on the grass. On the clay, it’s obviously you got the sliding, it’s a bit more safer. The grass has just got that unpredictable factor where it’s tough. There’s no guarantee that any time you go out there you could be injured. It is what it is, you know.

“It’s tough to say because obviously Serena, she’s like the G.O.A.T. You know what I mean? It’s tough to say it is what is. Unfortunately it’s, like, the grass. It’s tough.”

Nick Kyrgios slipping


Q. Did you miss the competition? Looked like you really enjoyed the theater of playing competitive tennis again. Have you missed it in the past six months?

NICK KYRGIOS: “Man, I compete every day. I compete when I play checkers. I compete when I play Call of Duty. I compete when I play basketball. I have the competitive sort of — I get that thrill with anything I do. My friends back home can definitely vouch for that. When I play this game called SEQUENCE, I’m very competitive.

“But, yeah, obviously going out there and playing Wimbledon on Court 1, packed crowd, against one of the best players in the world at the moment, one of the most in-form players, it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy going out there.

“Yesterday the crowd was thanking me. They’re like, Thank you, Nick, for keeping me so entertained.

“I’m like, I’m doing my best.

“So I’ll continue to go out there and try and give them a show and just try and bring that different aspect of tennis. A lot of people wanted me to play because of that.”

“I’m here, I’m trying to give you what I’ve got. That’s that.”

Q. Seen you there before. I wondered with the bubble, what are you doing to ensure you don’t get too bored or frustrated? We’ve seen this year someone like Benoit Paire struggling with life inside the bubble.

NICK KYRGIOS: “That’s why I didn’t play most of the year. I made the decision that I know myself and I don’t bullshit to myself. I know that, Nick, are you going to be in a good mental space over this year to go week in, week out in the bubble environment? I said, No. That’s why I didn’t play for very long.

“Obviously I didn’t think playing during COVID was a smart thing. But, yeah, that’s why this week I brought my girlfriend, I brought my best friend. I wanted to bring two people that I trusted, that I was very comfortable around, that made me feel good. Take it week by week. Next week I got it off. Obviously U.S. is open.

“But, yeah, look, anyone that’s in the bubble, I commend them for their efforts. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to disconnect tennis. Usually you can go back to your house in the Wimbledon Village, go for a walk, just disconnect.

“To have good results week in, week out in the bubble, you’re very resilient. I got to give props to these guys. They love it. They love the sport. It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all.

“Yesterday I was here at 12. I warmed up. I was here all day. Finished, got back to my hotel at 1. In a bubble. Woke up, got back here. It’s not easy.

“Yeah, like Benoit, he’s his own man, too. He makes his own decisions. Like he said, he doesn’t owe anything to anyone. He plays for himself. That’s what he does. It’s up to him. It’s all good.”

Venus Williams serving

Q. About playing mixed with Venus Williams, how did it come about? How do you feel about it? Are you looking to learn anything from her? She said yesterday she’s open to giving you any advice you’d like from her.

NICK KYRGIOS: “Well, let’s not get this twisted. There was an interview that Venus took, and she got asked, Who would your dream doubles partner be?

“She said, Nick Kyrgios.

“Look, I’m willing to give her any tips she wants. No, no, no, I’m just kidding (laughter).

“She’s obviously a legend. To see her still gracing the courts of Wimbledon, winning matches at 41… At 41, I don’t think I’ll be able to honestly hit another ball. She’s a legend.

“We’ve been planning to play for a while now at Grand Slams. It just never worked out. I’m not sure how long she’ll play for, so before she kind of gives it up, I do want to experience playing with one of the Williams sisters in mixed doubles. Honestly that’s like a dream come true for me.

“They’ve been around for so, so long. I think it will be a bit of fun. I think we’re a bit of a danger pair as well if we serve well. The crowd will definitely get behind us. She’s a legend.

“Maybe she can teach me some of that calm, the water-type energy that’s out there. I’m just going to go out there and have fun. She’s an absolute legend of the sport. I’m super excited. I can tell she’s excited, too.

“I don’t think she ever thought back in the day she’d be playing mixed doubles with the bad boy of tennis, so we’ll see how it goes.”

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