It was a different kind of day at the All-England Club yesterday – and, appropriately, a different kind of player won the right to be Andy Murray’s next opponent. Wimbledon Sunday was brash, colourful and not so familiar with the etiquette. Nick Kyrgios was all these things, too – and much more.
The fiery Australian was the hot ticket for those who can’t normally get near the tournament. The official purple and green tie was less in evidence and instead the home of tennis was crammed with mums, dads and the screaming kids, all lured by the £20 admission after a backlog of rain-hit matches necessitated an extra day’s play.
Wimbledon Sunday also attracts what are termed “real tennis fans” and in their morning papers this group will have read about the screaming Aussie and they’ll have wondered what kind of outburst the resumption of Kyrgios’s tussle with Spain’s Feliciano Lopez would bring.
Before bad light halted it, the No 15 seed had been continuing the ranting at the entourage in his box which had made his previous match with Dustin Brown so entertaining for the crowd but presumably uncomfortable for those concerned. But he went further – too far – on Saturday when he called one of them “retarded”.
Yesterday on Court 1, though, his behaviour was impeccable. His tennis was pretty good, too, as he won 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 with a stunning, low crosscourt backhand much in evidence which will have reminded Murray of the threat he poses.
This was only the fourth time in Wimbledon’s history that the tournament had spilled over into the middle Sunday. On other days last week it could resemble auditions for a film version of Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh’s satire on decadent young London society, updated to the plum-coloured trews era.
Instead, families and young couples who might normally spend their Sundays strolling round an out-of-town retail park got to walk along the lanes between the courts, choosing their matches.
The crowd – limited to 20,000 for a reduced day of action – was less glamorous but more comfortable. The hiking trainer had replaced the dinky suede loafer in a primary colour. The rucksack containing the kids’ snacks had usurped the designer handbag. And the match the discerning Wimbledon Sunday fan was choosing was the rascally Kyrgios versus the smouldering Lopez, much admired by the girls and Judy Murray.
It re-started with a joke, Kyrgios on serve freezing before toss-up after a spectator clanked a chair. This sort of thing might be a necessary evil of Wimbers Sunday but loud laughter greeted Kyrgios’s reaction. The man seemed to have had a good night’s sleep after Saturday’s flare-up and was in a better mood.
The first few games passed quietly and without incident. Truly this was tennis to put before the stuffiest sticklers-for-rules in SW19. But there were exciting moments such as when Kyrgios got to break-point with two glorious backhands, delivered in his customary flat and deadly style..
He looked round at his box after the second of them. All ten were on their feet. Just as well you were, guys. But if anything it was Lopez who was throwing the darker looks, aimed at his supporters, as the third set began to slip away from the No 22 seed.
When Kyrgios skied a shot there would be a cheer from the stands, doubtless hoping to trigger a small explosion in the Canberra-born player, but the crowd were enjoying his humour, his constant chatting, the occasional trick-shot - not entirely necessary but he obviously can’t resist them – and more from that flashing backhand, like the shot with which he broke Lopez’s serve early in the fourth set.
Every thumping hit was greeted with gushing praise from his corner. You felt that if he poured himself some barley water, replacing the top afterwards, they would roar their approval. The camp-followers obviously had had a good, long think about their below-par performance the previous day. So had Kyrgios.
The Spaniard’s fans tried to lift their man. “Vamos, Lopez!” was the cry. Lopez’s Wikipedia page has a section on modelling, listing his various assignments. It reports that he doesn’t like being described as a model, however. Well, he looked fabulous in defeat but could do little to quell Kyrgios’s serve and general verve. Just before what proved to be the final point, with Kyrgios serving, there was a warning from the umpire about him taking too long to despatch the ball. He’s normally one of the fastest guys here but maybe he was allowing his thoughts to stray to today’s challenge: how does he stop Murray? The Scot will know, though, that stopping Kyrgios will be no straightforward task.