They remain quite the contrasts: Nadal the maximizer of potential; Kyrgios the flickering flame. Nadal is deliberate, sometimes ponderous, between serves and points. Kyrgios plays as if he has a plane to catch. Nadal has never thrown a racket in anger in his pro career; Kyrgios threw his twice on Thursday, the second time after losing the match, 7-6 (0), 5-7, 6-4. The racket rebounded off the court and flew toward the head of a ball boy standing near the back wall, who dodged it.
Kyrgios, booed as he left the court on Thursday, has already been suspended by the men’s tour once in 2016 and put on probation a second time in 2019 for misbehavior. He risks another sanction after Thursday’s match, and the tour would be wise to crack down more convincingly on player tantrums. Last month, Alexander Zverev took four swings at an umpire’s chair, narrowly missing the umpire, in Acapulco, Mexico, and received no further suspension after being defaulted from the tournament.
“When you allow the players to do stuff, then you don’t know when is the line, and it’s a tricky thing,” Nadal said.
The Spaniard is now 6-3 against Kyrgios, who, for all his evident gifts, has yet to get past the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam singles tournament or win a Masters 1000 title.
Nadal is one of the great champions in any sport and with victory secured and the news conference completed, he took a few more moments in front of the television to watch more of Alcaraz’s match and consider Saturday and beyond.
“It’s great, honestly, to have such a star from my country,” Nadal said. “Because for the tennis lovers, we’re going to keep enjoying an amazing player fighting for the most important titles for the next I don’t know how many years. A lot of years.”