LONDON—Nick Kyrgios has not always found the spotlight easy to handle but the Australian maverick showed he remains one of the game’s great entertainers as he breezed into the Wimbledon third round with a 7-6(7) 6-4 6-4 win over Gianluca Mager on Thursday.
With his usual mixture of exuberant shot-making and near constant chatter, the 26-year-old made light work of the Italian and gave the crowd plenty to enjoy.
Kyrgios went through his usual repertoire of berating officials, himself and anyone else in his vicinity but when it came to the serious business on court he was almost faultless.
He saved a set point in the first set tiebreak and then roared in approval as he snatched the opener before taking the game away from his 77th-ranked opponent with some superb serving and delightful groundstrokes.
He fired down his 29th ace to bring up match point, at which stage he wandered to the stands to let an excited fan whisper something in his ear, and then sealed his spot in the next round when Mager hit a forehand long, receiving a rapturous reception from the approving crowd.
Kyrgios remains a huge fan draw wherever he plays, with his antics livening up a sport where personalities are often kept under wraps.
The match was only three points in when Kyrgios threw in his first underarm serve, which Mager gleefully dispatched down the line, while he got a code violation for an expletive that flew from his mouth quicker than one of his firecracker forehands.
The crowd lapped it up, delighted to have one of their most unpredictable entertainers back after he took time off the tour, having opted against traveling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Kyrgios certainly played to the gallery.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 1, 2021
“I feel like when they come to my matches now, they know how I am. I’m quite lighthearted. Yeah, they know it’s a bit of a show. They just want entertainment at the end of the day,” he said.
“I have people in the front row literally coaching me, like literally telling me: ‘That’s all right, good ball, great return, it will work next time, good depth’. I’m like, ‘Dude, what is going on out here?’
“It’s good. Obviously the fan base is awesome. But I was just, like, I think the people are just excited to see tennis again at the end of the day.”
In the past, Kyrgios has struggled with the attention that his game generates. Now he says he has learned to cope with everything his critics can throw at him.
“I just feel like I don’t put as much pressure on myself anymore. When I was younger, it was hard to deal with all the criticism that the media gave me, that everyone gave me,” he said.
“Like, it beat me down to a point of very bad depression. I wasn’t even enjoying myself. Like, I wasn’t even coming to Wimbledon and enjoying myself. I was not embracing this amazing event. I wasn’t embracing having another day.
“Now I just enjoy it when I’m out there. I breathe in the fresh air. Like, I don’t take anything for granted.”
Next up for Kyrgios will be a clash against either Canadian 16th seed Felix Auger Aliassime or Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.
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