‘Nick Kyrgios is a nightmare opponent for Rafa Nadal,’ warns Mats Wilander

Rafael Nadal celebrates at Wimbledon

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander believes Nick Kyrgios will be a real threat to Rafael Nadal when the duo clash on Wimbledon’s Centre Court on Thursday, after claiming the presence the 18-time Grand Slam champion on the other side of the net is just what the Aussie maverick needs to inspire him.

Kyrgios turned in a bizarre performance as he appeared to throw the fourth set of his match against compatriot Jordan Thompson on Tuesday, before bouncing back to win the fifth set in convincing fashion.

It secured Kyrgios a date with a rival he described as ‘super salty’ in an outspoken rant earlier this year, with Eurosport expert Wilander suggesting that spat and Nadal’s legendary status will focus the mind of the most unpredictable player in the game.

“Maybe a second-round match against someone like Rafa Nadal is a match Nick Kyrgios needs,” states Wilander, ahead of a re-match of a contest that saw the Aussie beat the Spaniard on Centre Court back in 2014.

“This is a nightmare opponent for Rafa Nadal, that’s for sure. You also wonder about Nick Kyrgios, who was claiming he was not fit enough to play five-set matches. So a big question will be how does he recover after three hours plus?

“I don’t think Nick will really think too much about the future of the tournament. He goes in with a mindset of that I beat him five years ago, I feel like I have a good chance.. obviously, he beat him in Acapulco this year already where there were a few unkind words from Nadal about Kyrgios’ disrespect for the game, his opponents and himself.

“At the same time, you always get the feeling Nick is a good friend in the locker room and the guys love having Nick Kyrgios around. But they hate playing him, because you just don’t know what Nick is going to do next. Nick obviously wants to win tennis matches, he just does it in a different way.

Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon

“It’s so difficult to do what Kyrgios did (in the fourth set against Thompson) and come back, but he’s so talented and you could see in that fifth set the types of shots he can hit – especially on the backhand side – no one can do that.

“He’s got that big serve, one of the best in the men’s game, hits a lot of aces, a lot of free points. It’s not easy to solve what is going on in his mind during a time like in the fourth set. It’s very unusual for a professional tennis player. I don’t mind whatever he does on the court so long as he is actually trying to win the tennis match.

“You can win in many different ways, second serve aces, tweeners, so long as at the end of matches you want to win.”

Wilander went in to question why Kyrgios was so outspoken in his criticism of Nadal, in comments that have added spice to the build-up of what is the most eagerly anticipated match of The Championships so far.

“The comments that Nick Kyrgios made about his fellow players, for example, Rafa gets ‘salty’ when he loses a match, it’s something you would worry about off the court,” he added.

“Once you get on the court then you forget about it. When the top players are playing Nick Kyrgios you have to tell yourself he won’t be playing the whole time and I will be. I feel like all the top players are confident against Nick, but he’s a nightmare opponent.”

Eurosport will screen daily highlights and also have live coverage of the Men’s and Ladies’ finals at Wimbledon.

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