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During Rafael Nadal’s four-set win over Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon on Thursday, Kyrgios stole a couple points with underhand serves, berated the umpire for being power-mad, and, at one point, drew Nadal close to the net then smashed a forehand right at him.
Video of that volley is here. Nadal managed to get his racket on the ball but could not return it, so it meant a point for Kyrgios.
Tennis players are expected to apologize when they strike or nearly strike their opponents, but Kyrgios did not apologize. After the match, the 24-year-old Australian firebrand admitted that he was trying to drill Nadal with the ball.
“I wanted to hit him square in the chest,” Kyrgios said. “Why would I apologize? Dude’s got how many Slams? How much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest.”
Nadal told reporters that Kyrgios’ attempt was “dangerous.”
“It’s not dangerous for me,” Nadal said. “It is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for the crowd.” He went on to say, essentially and unironically, that someone could lose an eye.
Kyrgios and Nadal have history, and Kyrgios has spent years developing a reputation as an extremely talented tennis player with a flair for theatrics and a nasty habit of quitting entirely in the middle of matches that aren’t going his way. His meltdowns can be at once extraordinarily petty and extremely entertaining, and for as often as he seems like an unrepentant madman, he sometimes seems like the unrepentant madman the stuffy tennis world needs and deserves.
Kyrgios is basically tennis’ answer to Happy Gilmore, but before Chubbs Peterson dies and gives him the perspective he needs to master putting. Kyrgios would 100% fight Bob Barker if they were paired together in some sort of pro-am celebrity doubles event.
I can’t purport to any real tennis expertise, as you probably realize, but I generally believe respect for the game — whatever game — is usually overrated and possibly oxymoronic. It’s a game. Tennis is for fun, and though it’s not at all clear Kyrgios enjoys it, unwritten codes of sports etiquette almost universally seem dumb to me. You can’t bail on a professional match midway through, obviously, because you’re reneging on the fundamental arrangement with the customers who paid to watch you compete. That’s why Kyrgios gets suspended and fined when he does that.
But the ideas that a) you’re not supposed to hit a tennis ball directly at your opponent and b) you should apologize when you do so both seem sort of silly. The goal is to win, no? As Kyrgios pointed out, smashing the ball directly at Nadal earned him a point. Nadal, being Rafael Nadal, did not seem in any real way at risk of being injured, since a tennis racket makes a pretty convenient shield when the projectile heading your way happens to be a tennis ball, and since there are only two or three other human beings on the planet as deft with a tennis racket as Nadal.
And Nadal’s argument that it’s dangerous seems at least a little disingenuous. He made the case that a ball hit so aggressively and intentionally could be accidentally fired into the crowd, but Kyrgios demonstrably had the requisite control to target Nadal. Why would a shot aimed at an opponent necessarily be any more wild than a shot aimed at the back corner of the baseline?
I’m not here to tell you it’s a nice thing to do. It’s decidedly not nice to try to wallop your tennis opponent with a tennis ball to the chest. I just don’t think anyone’s tuning in to Wimbledon to see the players be friendly to each other. Kyrgios’ long history of weird behavior strips from him the benefit of the doubt, but he’s not even asking for that. He tried to nail Nadal in the chest, it worked, and no one got hurt. Why should he be sorry?
Thursday’s big winner: Kawhi Leonard
Leonard’s free-agency holdout reached its fifth day, and the sports world remains abuzz with speculation over where he’ll land. Now, finally, Snoop Dogg is involved. The 47-year-old rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, media personality, entrepreneur and actor shared a short video to recruit Leonard to his beloved Lakers via song. I say this with all due respect, but the song is not very good. I’m not saying Drake could top it because nothing Drake has ever done has one tenth of Snoop’s style or soul, but give Rush a week and I’m sure they could churn out a six-minute long, odd-metered, technically incredible but undoubtedly cheesy opus about the Board Man that puts Snoop’s to shame.
Quick hits: MLB schedule, Bartolo, Earthquake
– Andy Nesbitt, master of the sports scheduling take, argued that MLB should make every day like Fourth of July — i.e., it should have games all day long. I’ve advocated for this myself in the past. There should always be baseball on.
– This is a couple days old now but it’s important and I don’t want Morning Win newsletter readers to miss it: Bartolo Colon is finally on Instagram.
– Colin Cowherd took time out from some horrible sports take we’d probably cover as news to expose himself as a normal human being who gets a little freaked out by earthquakes. I’ve experienced one earthquake in my life, it was extremely mild by earthquake standards, and that was all the earthquake I ever need. The ground’s not supposed to do that.