Kyrgios shrugs off injury to reach Wimbledon quarters

Published July 5, 2022
BRANDON Nakashima of the US returns to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios during their Wimbledon round-of-16 match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on Monday.—Reuters
BRANDON Nakashima of the US returns to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios during their Wimbledon round-of-16 match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on Monday.—Reuters

LONDON: Nick Kyrgios shrugged off a shoulder injury to beat Brandon Nakashima in five sets and book a place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Monday, staying on course for a blockbuster clash against Rafael Nadal.

The maverick Australian was on his best behaviour just two days after his stormy third-round victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas, winning 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-2.

Kyrgios kept his cool on a sun-drenched Centre Court in match lasting three hours and 11 minutes to book a last-eight tie against Chile’s Cristian Garin.

The 27-year-old recovered from a slow start and his shoulder issue to strike his groundstrokes more freely as the match went on.

Kyrgios, who had regular physio treatments, hammered 79 winners including 35 aces, breaking the 20-year-old Nakashima’s serve three times to improve to 11-2 on grass in 2022.

The last time the 40th-ranked player reached the last eight at a major was at the Australian Open in 2015, a year after he reached the same stage on his debut at the All England Club.

“I have played a lot of tennis in the past month and a half,” he said.

“I am proud of the way I steadied the ship after he came out firing in the fourth set.

“My five-set record is pretty good. That is what I was thinking about. I have played a lot of five-set matches here.”

Kyrgios will next play Garin, who battled back from two sets down and saved two match points to beat 19th seed Alex de Minaur of Australia.

The unseeded Chilean took the third set on a tie-break and went on to win 2-6, 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 7-6 (10-6) in a gruelling contest lasting four hours and 34 minutes.

“I tried to be aggressive, went to the net, and tried to be aggressive with my serve as well. I think that was the key,” he said.

Elsewhere, 11th seed Taylor Fritz cruised past Australian qualifier Jason Kubler 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.

In the women’s competition, Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina reached the quarter-finals for the first time with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Petra Martic of Croatia.

She will face either Alize Cornet of France or Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic for a place in the semi-finals.

JABEUR EDGES PAST MERTENS

Late on Sunday, Ons Jabeur’s hopes of becoming the first African to lift the Rosewater Dish gathered momentum as she edged out Belgian Elise Mertens 7-6 (9), 6-4 in a topsy-turvy encounter to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the second year running.

The second-ranked Tunisian, the only seed left in the bottom half of the women’s draw, has been the form player over the opening week of the grasscourt championships as she reached the last eight without dropping a set.

“It’s never easy to play anyone during a Grand Slam. Especially with my position, everybody wants to grab the win,” she said.

“I have my goals very high for this tournament ... no matter who’s coming, I’m going to build the fight, I’m going to fight till the end because I really want the title.”

Mertens was no pushover during the contest as she twice came back from a break down in the first set and earned five set points during the marathon tiebreak.

But once Jabeur produced the firepower to wriggle out of trouble, she raised her game in the second set and wrapped up the win when Mertens surrendered with a double fault.

The 27-year-old will next meet 66th-ranked Czech challenger Marie Bouzkova, who beat beat Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

DJOKOVIC, SINNER ADVANCE

In the men’s event on Sunday, top seed Novak Djokovic raised his level to put an end to the fairytale run of Dutch wildcard Tim van Rijthoven during a battling 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory and keep his title defence on track.

The Serb broke his opponent’s serve twice in the opening set while saving three break points to take a one-set lead.

Van Rijthoven, the clear underdog against the 20-time major winner, brought the crowd under the Centre Court lights to their feet when he broke the 20-times major winner’s serve in the second set to level the contest.

But Djokovic showed why he has won 25 consecutive matches on grass, taking his level up a few notches in the third set to break twice and shut down the momentum the Dutchman had gained.

The 35-year-old got a break early in the fourth and let out roars of “come on” with his fists clenched, while a second break in the seventh game put the top seed firmly in control.

Djokovic then converted his first match point with a forehand winner — his 28th of the evening — to keep his title defence rolling on grass. Djokovic will play Italian 10th seed Jannik Sinner for a place in Friday’s semi-finals after the 20-year-old ousted fifth-seeded Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in the previous contest on Centre Court.

Sinner enjoyed a night to remember as he toppled Alcaraz with a barnstorming 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3 win in a battle of the young-guns to reach the maiden Wimbledon quarters.

The two youngest players left in the men’s draw gave a glimpse of the future with some breathtaking shotmaking that earned them a standing ovation from 15,000 hollering fans.

However, during the first two sets there was little indication of the spellbinding drama that would end up unfolding on Centre Court.

The highly-rated Alcaraz, who has won a Tour-leading four titles this year, was sucked into a Sinner whirlwind as he lost seven games in a row from 1-1 in the first set.

The 19-year-old Spaniard recovered from that setback to deny Sinner two match points in the third-set tiebreak before three more went begging with Alcaraz serving at 5-2 down in the fourth. But Sinner withstood the barrage of belting winners to finally book his place in the last eight at his sixth attempt when Alcaraz rolled a forehand into the net.

“Carlos is a very tough opponent and a very nice person so it’s always a huge pleasure to play him with such a great crowd and on a special day with 100 years of Centre Court — it’s just amazing,” said Sinner.

“It’s tough when you have match point and you still have to play — I tried my best, it’s part of the game, part of tennis.

“I’m very happy how I reacted in the beginning of the fourth because I was struggling but I’m very happy to be in the next round and hopefully I can play some good tennis there.”

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2022

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