Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from the Wimbledon semifinals was huge–if not unexpected–news in its own right. But it was an even bigger deal because of what it means: Nick Kyrgios is into a Grand Slam final for the first time in his career.
Nadal and Kyrgios would have gone head-to-head on Friday afternoon at the All-England Club, but the 22-time Grand Slam champion suffered an abdominal tear during his five-set quarterfinal win over Taylor Fritz. After practicing for 45 minutes on Wednesday, Nadal held a press conference to officially withdraw.
“It’s not the way I wanted to get to the final,” Kyrgios commented. “As a competitor, I really did want that match. It was obviously something that as soon as I beat (Cristian) Garin, Rafa was a high possibility–someone I’ve had so many good battles with before.
“We’ve both taken a win against each other at this tournament (Kyrgios in 2014; Nadal in 2019). I really did want to see how the third chapter was going to go. Obviously you never want to see someone like that, so important to the sport, go down with an injury like that. He’s just played so much tennis. He’s had a grueling season. I just hope he recovers. I’m sure I’ll play him again on a big stage.
“It’s exciting to say that I have a chance to play for a Grand Slam singles title after everything. It’s pretty cool.”
Kyrgios had never even been to the semifinals of a slam prior to this fortnight. The 27-year-old had reached two quarterfinals–none since 2015. He had been past the third round of a major only once since January of 2018.
From a talent standpoint, seeing Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final isn’t surprising at all. From a recent results standpoint, it’s definitely a surprise. Count Kyrgios, himself, among those who didn’t see it coming.
“I never thought I’d be here at all, to be brutally honest with you. When I was No. 1 junior in the world and I was playing here as a junior…I saw some of the professionals walking around and I never thought I’d be playing for the actual men’s title. I feel like it’s the pinnacle of tennis. Once you are able to raise a Grand Slam trophy, that’s like…I mean…kind of what else is there to achieve?
“So I never thought I’d be here. I’m just super proud and I’m just ready to go. I’m going to give it my all and we’ll see what happens.
“I don’t think I’m supposed to be someone like me. I grew up in Canberra, the courts I trained on were horrible, and now I’m in the Wimbledon final. I think it’s honestly an inspiration for any sort of kid who’s kind of been outcasted or just been surrounded by negative headlines or negative just clouds or just being brought down from a lot of different angles.
“I feel like it’s possible, it’s still possible to achieve something quite special if you just believe in yourself. I never really lost belief in myself. I feel like most people around me at some stage in my life have lost belief that I would ever make a Grand Slam final, doubted me a little bit in my behavior or just the way I trained; I think everyone, it’s safe to say.
“That’s fine. They doubted me. But I never lost belief in myself.”