Rafael Nadal vs Nick Kyrgios – The Most Controversial Rivalry in Tennis

Published 12/31/2019, 4:18 AM EST

The rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios is one of the most animated rivalries in the history of tennis. The competition between Nadal and Kyrgios is a captivating mismatch that always ignites fireworks on and off the court whenever they meet.


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The contrasting styles and conflicting personalities between Nadal and Kyrgios make their encounters intriguing. Their rivalry has seen a string of spats between the pair in the past years. However, how did the animosity towards each other sparked between them and why have things turned unpleasant between the two?


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Rafael Nadal vs Nick Kyrgios – A rivalry is born

The rivalry between Nadal and Kyrgios triggered back in 2014 at the Wimbledon Championships. The Spaniard faced the 19-year-old Kyrgios in the last 16 at the All England Club in 2014. Ranked 144 in the world, Kyrgios entered the tournament with the help of a wildcard.


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Despite having a reputation of a ‘swaggering showman’, Nick stunned the Centre Court crowd hitting after hitting a staggering 37 aces. The Australian became the first man outside the top 100 to beat a world number one at a Grand Slam tournament since 1992. Kyrgios’ memorable victory over the Spaniard on Centre Court in 2014 gives rise to a new rivalry on the ATP Tour.

Nadal vs Kyrgios Head-to-Head


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The pair have met seven times in their career with Nadal leading their head-to-head record split 4-3. Their most recent highly-charged encounter came in the second round of the Wimbledon Championships 2019, where Nadal prevailed in four sets.

While Kyrgios has defeated the Mallorcan on the grass courts and hard courts, Nadal has defeated him in all the three surfaces. The two have split their head-to-head record on the grass with 1 match each. On the other hand, Kyrgios leads their head-to-head on hard courts 2-1 and Nadal lead on the clay 2-0.

Series of controversies between Nadal and Djokovic

Rafael Nadal overpowered Kyrgios as he dropped only three games in the finals to clinch the China Open title in 2017. This was the first time, a controversy sparked in one of their matches. An incorrect out call from the linesman denied Kyrgios a break in the opening game. The hot-headed Australian struggled to get back in the match with his first serves were all over the place.

“He lacks a little respect for his rival” – Rafael Nadal

The two again met in the second round of Acapulco in February 2019. Nadal was completely on track as he secured the opening set. Subsequently, after losing the first set, Kyrgios complained of being ill, but continued to play on as he feared the media would “blow it up”.

He returned to the court for the second set and saved three match points before going on to take the second set. Kyrgios was highly animated in the second set as he screamed “shut up” to the crowd, which brought him a warning from the umpire.

He again called a trainer after the second set to treat his sore back. Kyrgios then saved several breakpoints and a match point in the tiebreaker to beat Nadal in a heated encounter. Nick also threw in a couple of underarm serves which irked Nadal. The two also had a frosty handshake at the net after the match.

“He could win Grand Slams and fight the top positions of the ranking, but there is a reason why he is where he is,” said Nadal. “I don’t think he’s a bad guy, not at all. I think he’s a good guy. But what he lacks is a little respect for the public, for his rival, and also for himself. I think he should improve that.”

The ‘Super salty’ comment from Kyrgios

“He’s my polar opposite and he’s super salty. When he wins it’s fine, he will credit the opponent. But as soon as I beat him he has no respect for me, my fans or the game. And I’m like “what are you talking about?!” said Kyrgios in an interview on the No Challenges Remaining podcast.

Kyrgios also hit back on Toni Nadal’s comment:  “He [Kyrgios] lacks education”. The Australian responded, “Bro, I did 12 years at school you idiot – I’m very educated. I understand you’re upset that I beat your family… We do things very differently.”

Nick Kyrgios not sorry for aiming the ball at Nadal

Nick Kyrgios admitted to attempting to hit Rafael Nadal with a ball during their heated match at the Wimbledon Championships 2019. While Nadal claimed the second-round match, Kyrgios made absolutely no apologies for aiming for Nadal when he was at the net to make a volley.

“Why would I apologize? I mean, the dude has got how many Slams, how much money in the bank account?” Kyrgios said in a post-match press conference. “I think he can take a ball to the chest, bro. I’m not going to apologize to him at all.”


Nick Kyrgios Taunts Rafael Nadal on Twitter and Deletes Tweet Later

about 2 years ago

It will be interesting to see till when the string of controversies between Nadal and Kyrgios goes on?



Varun Khanna

1332 articles

Starting off as a tennis author in 2018, Varun Khanna has gone on to contribute to EssentiallySports in various capacities. After setting up interviews with the likes of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou, Alizé Cornet, and Noah Rubin, Varun is now part of all major ATP and WTA press conferences and has gone on to pen more than 1300 articles for EssentiallySports. He now heads the tennis and NBA division of the organization.