Banter built lasting friendship between Murray and Kyrgios

Nick Kyrgios was full of praise for Andy Murray yesterday as he admitted it would be difficult to break down the 'brick wall' the Scot erects during matches '“ but the young Australian thinks he can do it and, what's more, he thinks he can win Wimbledon.

Andy Murray has been a vocal supporter of Nick Kyrgios in the past. Picture: PA

In a session in the interview-room no less entertaining than his victory over Spain’s Feliciano Lopez to set up today’s fourth-round clash with the No 2, Kyrgios spoke of their friendship, the banter and baiting that goes on between them – and his gratitude when Murray speaks up for him after he gets into bother with officialdom.

There was criticism of Kyrgios, seeded 15, after he’d lambasted the entourage in his box during the earlier part of his match against Lopez on Saturday, calling one of them “retarded”. Yesterday’s conclusion to the match passed off without incident and he said he’d regretted the outburst. “Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s all in the heat of battle. I know some people can be offended by that. I’m not meaning to be rude or disrespectful at all.

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“Sometimes [to my box] I’m just a pest. They’re always doing the best they can do. Everything I say and everything I do out there, they all know I love them. So it’s okay.”

Back to Murray, their relationship, their square-up. “It’s awesome that he backs me up a lot,” Kyrgios said. “It’s good to have one of the best players in the world [as a] good friend. I mean [on tour], I see him more times than I see my family so it’s good to have a friend like him.

“Our relationship’s pretty good. We joke a lot. When we’re in the locker-room it’s just instant banter. We have a lot of fun. When did our friendship start? I can’t remember but it was love at first sight!”

“He’s a very relaxed guy, down-to-earth. He baits me a lot of the time. He’s always funny. That helps. He’s a great guy and I’m just looking forward to going out there to play him. I’m relaxed but I’m also nervous as hell!”

In their duels thus far Kyrgios thinks he’s been getting closer. “That last time I played him was at the US Open. I thought I made some inroads there, finally won a set against him in a Grand Slam. Obviously he’s one of the best tennis players right now. I feel like I know what to do. I’ve got a gameplan. But it’s going to be hard to execute against such a player as him.”

What did Kyrgios most admire about Murray? “When you look at him you see a great athlete, obviously. He moves extremely well, he knows the game so well. He’s practically a brick wall from the back. He’s a great returner, he can mix it up, he competes well. There’s not many weaknesses. The only guy he really loses to is Novak [Djokovic].”

What were their differences? “The biggest is I play more aggressive to Andy. I don’t move anywhere near as well. But I don’t know if he’s got a tweener [between the legs shot] like I do!”

While players on the uncovered courts have been hit by rain delays, Murray has been able to play all his matches thus far on the Centre Court unaffected by disruptions. Kyrgios said this gave Murray an advantage but didn’t begrudge him it.

“He deserves it. I’ve played Centre once before and feel comfortable on it but so is he, obviously. It’s like his backyard.”

Now that this tournament is in a post-Novak world, the 21-year-old was asked about the impact of Djokovic’s shock defeat to Sam Querrey on the rest of the locker-room. “I think as soon as Novak loses you look at Andy and you look at [Roger] Federer’s eyes light up. They think that their chances probably doubled.

“I think a lot of people in the locker-room now believe they can win it. If the stars align and they’re playing well there’s a lot of people can go get it.”

Can he? “Yeah,” came the reply. But first there’s the not insignificant matter of Andy Murray in his backyard. “It’s going to be a really fun match.”