Quieter Kyrgios overcomes shoulder, U.S. foe at Wimbledon

Day Eight: The Championships - Wimbledon 2022
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WIMBLEDON, England – Much quieter, much calmer, than in his previous match, Nick Kyrgios overcame a troublesome right shoulder to deliver 35 aces and beat Brandon Nakashima 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-2 at Wimbledon on Monday to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time in 7 1/2 years.

The unseeded Kyrgios improved to 6-0 over his career in five-setters at the All England Club and collected his tour-leading 11th grass-court victory of the season.

“I need a glass of wine, for sure, tonight. For sure,” Kyrgios told the crowd during his on-court interview, after swapping out his rule-conforming white hat and shoes for red versions.

Playing before a nearly full house at Centre Court, the 27-year-old Australian only occasionally displayed his unusual repertoire of trick shots – a between-the-legs swing here, an underarm serve there – or the temper that earned fines of $10,000 for spitting in the direction of a heckling spectator at the end of his first-round match and $4,000 for an audible obscenity during his tempestuous win against No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round.

Against Nakashima, an unseeded 20-year-old from California, Kyrgios repeatedly was visited during changeovers by a trainer, who massaged and manipulated his shoulder. There was a stretch where Kyrgios’ high-speed serves dipped from above 135 mph to closer to 110 mph, but he eventually seemed to get past that and was back to producing unreturnable offerings over and over.

After Nakashima evened things by taking the fourth set with a break, then went up 1-0 in the fifth, Kyrgios surged to the finish. He earned five games in a row, before serving it out and closing this way from love-30: cross-court forehand passing winner; hanging on in an 11-stroke exchange until Nakashima missed a backhand; 134 mph service winner; forehand volley winner.

“I’ve played a lot of tennis in the last month and a half. I’m just proud of the way I steadied the ship,” Kyrgios said. “Honestly that’s what I was thinking about: I’ve never lost a five-set match here. … I was like, `I’ve been here before. I’ve done it before.”‘

This will be Kyrgios’ third appearance in a major quarterfinal. The others came as a teenager at Wimbledon in 2014 – when he surprised then-No. 1 Rafael Nadal along the way – and at the Australian Open in 2015.

“I stepped out here against one of the greatest of all time and beat Nadal,” Kyrgios said. “So these are all things I have in the back of my mind.”

Kyrgios next faces unseeded Cristian Garin, a 26-year-old from Chile who authored the fortnight’s first comeback from two sets down, saving two match points and turning things around to defeat No. 19 seed Alex de Minaur 2-6, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (10-6) after more than 4 1/2 hours.

Garin, who is ranked 43rd, reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in his 15th major appearance.

The other quarterfinal on their half of the draw will be No. 11 Taylor Fritz against 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal or No. 21 Botic van de Zandschulp. Fritz, a 24-year-old American, has yet to drop a set and will be making his major quarterfinal debut after defeating qualifier Jason Kubler 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.

The only owner of a Grand Slam title left in the women’s bracket, Simona Halep, extended her Wimbledon winning streak to 11 matches by overwhelming fourth-seeded Paula Badosa 6-1, 6-2.

The 16th-seeded Halep, who recently teamed up with Patrick Mouratoglou, the former coach of Serena Williams, made just nine unforced errors against Badosa, saved the only break point she faced and needed just an hour to move on.

Halep won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019. She did not return to compete at the All England Club until last week, though, because the tournament was called off in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, and she missed it a year ago because of an injured leg.

After Badosa’s exit, the only woman remaining who is seeded higher than Halep is No. 3 Ons Jabeur. The combined nine seeds who will participate in the women’s or men’s quarterfinals is the lowest total at Wimbledon since 2000.

Halep will go up against No. 20 Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American who beat Harmony Tan of France 6-2, 6-3. Anisimova had eliminated French Open runner-up Coco Gauff last week; Tan eliminated 23-time major champion Williams in the first round.

The other quarterfinal on their side of the field will be 17th-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia. Rybakina made it to the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Petra Martic, while Tomljanovic is there for the second straight year after beating Alize Cornet 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Cornet ended No. 1 Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak on Saturday.

“I didn’t really think I could do it,” said Tomljanovic, who lost to eventual champion Ash Barty in last year’s quarterfinals. “After some tough moments this year, I thought: Am I ever going to get a chance again? I can’t believe a year later, I’m in the same position.”