Wimbledon 2016: Andy Murray defends ‘good friend’ Nick Kyrgios but rivalry will renew in fourth round on Manic Monday
Whether or not it has anything to do with his impeccable 18-0 record against Australians in Grand Slam tournaments, Andy Murray has always got on well with the current generation of tyros from Down Under. Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and Thanasi Kokkinakis have all talked of their gratitude for the world No 2’s friendship and support, though any such feelings will be put aside here at Wimbledon on Monday.
Murray meets Kyrgios in the pick of an enthralling programme of fourth-round matches as all the remaining men and women in singles competition are scheduled to play. The Scot and the Australian are third up on Centre Court.
Kyrgios, who had been tied at one set apiece with Feliciano Lopez when their third-round match was halted because of fading light on Saturday, completed a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory over the Spaniard to earn a fifth career meeting with Murray. Remarkably, it will complete their head-to-head Grand Slam collection, Murray having beaten Kyrgios last year at the Australian, French and US Opens.
The 21-year-old Australian is one of the game’s most controversial characters, having had numerous run-ins with officialdom, but Murray has often defended him.
“He’s good fun,” the Scot said here. “He chats to everyone. I have never really seen him in a bad mood off the court. He has always been nice. Obviously on it he has done stuff that is wrong, like I have many times and loads of players have in the past. Sometimes in the press he does get a bit of a hard time and he goes on the defensive a little bit when maybe he doesn’t need to, but I can understand that as well.
“When you see what some of the other players have done here – players that are better than him and won a lot more than him – the coverage they get for destroying a racket is much less than he does for saying to the umpire ‘You have done a bad job’ or ‘You were terrible today’, whatever. But because it’s him, it’s a bigger story.”
Murray said he had never offered Kyrgios specific advice. “I’ve chatted to him about it, but unless someone asks me for my advice I won’t just volunteer it,” he said.
“I chat to him all the time about loads of stuff. A little bit about basketball. We chat a lot about tennis as well. He does love tennis. He knows a lot. Maybe sometimes he says he doesn’t care that much about tennis, but he does care, he does like it and knows all the players well. He knows their games.”
Kyrgios said it was “awesome” to have Murray’s public support. “He backs me up a lot,” Kyrgios said. “It’s just good to have one of the best players in the world as a good friend like that. I see him at times more than I see my family.”
He added: “Our relationship’s pretty good. We joke a lot. Obviously when he’s in the locker room, it’s just instant banter. We just have a lot of fun. He’s a very relaxed guy, down-to-earth. He baits me a lot of the time. He’s always very funny.”
When asked when he first became friendly with Murray, Kyrgios smiled. “It was love at first sight,” he joked. “When Andy walks [into the locker room] we see each other, we just give each other a look. We can’t stop looking at each other for a bit.
“When I see Roger [Federer], everyone just looks at him. Roger has an aura about him. I think he’s the greatest player of all time. I just watch him. I don’t say anything. It’s the same with Novak [Djokovic]. But with Andy it’s different.”
Nick Kyrgios applauds the crowd after beating Feliciano Lopez at Wimbledon (Getty)
There have been times when Kyrgios, like Murray, has screamed at his entourage during matches. “Sometimes I’m just a pest,” the Australian admitted “They’re always doing the best they can do. It’s obviously in the heat of the battle. Everything I say and everything I do out there, they all know I love them. So it’s OK.”
On Saturday Kyrgios was heard to call his entourage “retarded”. Asked about the comment, Kyrgios said: “It’s all in the heat of battle. I know some people can obviously get offended by that. I’m not meaning to be rude or disrespectful at all.”
Kyrgios said he was looking forward to meeting Murray despite knowing the vast majority of the crowd would be on the Scot’s side. “I’ve played on Centre Court before,” he said. “I’ve produced some really good tennis there. I can take a lot of confidence going into that. But I don’t think anyone’s going to have the crowd on their side when they go out there against Andy.”
The Australian thinks it has been a big advantage for Murray to play his first three matches on Centre Court. “It’s huge, but he deserves it,” Kyrgios said. “I feel comfortable going out there as well. It’s the same dimensions as any court I’ve played on since I was a little kid. He’s obviously comfortable there. It’s like his backyard.”
Kyrgios will face Andy Murray in the fourth round at Wimbledon (Getty)
Murray said he would have had no problem playing on Court One – and had actually asked to play his second-round match there – but agreed that it had been to his advantage to play all his matches on Centre Court, where the retractable roof guarantees play.
“It’s been difficult for a lot of the players,” he said. “The more roofs the better when the weather is like this, but when the weather is like this it’s an advantage to play on Centre because you know you’re going to get your matches done.”
Kyrgios said his first week had been challenging. “I feel like I’ve been coming here every day and been on the schedule nearly every day. With the rain, it hasn’t been easy for any player going into the locker room, preparing for matches, going back out. Physically, I feel good. Mentally, I feel good. I’ve been to the fourth round at Grand Slams before. I know what to expect.”
Murray and Kyrgios get on as ‘good friends’ off the court (Getty)
The Australian said he felt “mentally ready” for the challenges ahead. “Usually when I get to the second week, I feel a bit drained,” he said. “I know what to expect now.”
Murray thinks Kyrgios will go on to win Grand Slam titles. “He is improving all the time,” the Scot said. “He has performed, out of the younger guys, probably the best in the Slams. Dominic Thiem obviously did very well at the French, but Nick has played well in Australia, has played some good stuff in Paris and has been pretty consistent here as well.”
Asked to assess Murray as a player, Kyrgios said: “He’s obviously a great athlete. 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. Obviously there aren’t many weaknesses there. The only person he really loses to is Novak.”
Murray’s chances of Wimbledon success went up with Novak Djokovic’s defeat (Getty)
Kyrgios, who regards grass as his best surface and the one which would give him his best chance against Murray, said that Djokovic’s surprise defeat to Sam Querrey meant that many more players – including himself – now thought they had a chance of the title.
“As soon as Novak loses, you look at Andy and you look at Federer’s eyes light up,” he said. “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 that can go get it.”