Tennis-Wimbledon welcomes Kyrgios back from couch life to court life

·3 min read

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) -Australian Nick Kyrgios said on court after completing a Wimbledon first-round win over Ugo Humbert on Wednesday that his performance was not bad for a "part-timer".

He was only half joking.

The 26-year-old maverick had not played a match since his third-round loss to Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open in February and had not set foot out of his country for 18 months.

His self-imposed exile to avoid being stuck in the tennis bubble environment that has become the norm on Tour, has deprived fans of its great entertainer.

But judging by the way he played in a 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-1 9-7 win over 21st seed Humbert, they might be in for a treat.

What is more, Kyrgios looks focussed on harnessing his talents, rather than courting controversy.

He produced a stunning level of tennis, having only arrived in Britain four days before the start of Wimbledon and might not have come at all if COVID-19 restrictions had prevented fans from attending the tournament.

"I got here four days before the event started. I'm not sure what day that was," Kyrgios, who made the quarter-finals on his debut in 2014 when he stunned Rafa Nadal, told reporters.

"A lot of people were telling me there's no chance, there's no point in you going with that short preparation.

"I was hearing a load of things like there's no chance you can come off the couch and compete at this level.

"I'm like, 'Dude, I know my game', I know how to play on grass. I'm not scared of anyone in the draw. I know if I believe and I'm feeling good mentally, I know what I'm capable of."

Kyrgios served 23 aces during a match that was suspended at 3-3 in the fifth set on Tuesday because of an 11pm limit on play. But while his serve was impressive, his court craft and resilience against the talented Frenchman was exceptional.

After play resumed the first eight games went with service although there was an anxious moment for the Australian when he slipped trying to change direction and fell awkwardly and briefly looked in pain, holding his hip.

But he picked himself up and it was Frenchman Humbert, winner of the grasscourt title in Halle this month, who blinked first when he played a poor service game at 7-7 to hand Kyrgios the chance he had been waiting for.

Kyrgios went 15-40 down on serve but clawed it back and claimed victory with a sliding serve down the middle.

The previous night Kyrgios was heard complaining about the grass, calling it a joke, although he was referring to its slowness rather than the fact it was slippery.

Asked about the surface which has come under fire following some high-profile injury withdrawals, notably Serena Williams on Tuesday, he said slips were to be expected.

"The grass has just got that unpredictable factor where it's tough," he said. "There's no guarantee that any time you go out there you could be injured. It is what it is."

He said that despite an ugly looking fall he was fine.

"I'm not the most flexible bloke. Any time my legs spread a little bit apart, I'm like, 'Ah. Going down', it was pretty brutal. It hurt. My hip hurt," he said. "I just got back up and showed some resilience. Comes with age."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)