(AFP) – Rafael Nadal insisted Wednesday that he has immense respect for Nick Kyrgios’s talent, and his public scolding of the mercurial Aussie after their stormy Acapulco clash doesn’t change that.
Kyrgios survived three match points to beat top-seeded Rafa in three sets to reach the quarter-finals in Acapulco, where he went on to win his first ATP title in more than a year.
Immediately after the match, 17-time Grand Slam champion Nadal said that Kyrgios – who complained of illness, served underarm and taunted a pro-Rafa crowd on the way to victory – “lacks respect for the public, the opponent and for himself.”
Rafa told reporters at the Indian Wells Masters that he thought his comments may have suffered in translation, but his assessment of Kyrgios hadn’t really changed.
“I never said nothing too negative about Nick, even if he took it more personally,” Rafa said, adding that his comments had nothing to do with the underarm serve, which didn’t make him feel disrespected at all.
“I understand this part of the game and I think it’s a good show for the game, but there’s other stuff in my opinion he can do better,” Rafa said, adding that he feared Kyrgios’s attitude sets a bad example for younger players.
“Everybody is free to do whatever they want, but at end of the day, in my opinion, he has an impact on the new generations,” Rafa said. “He’s young, he’s a famous player and in my opinion we need to show good values for the kids.”
“I heard that he took it very personally. I really didn’t see it but somebody told me he put some stuff on his social networks,” said Nadal, the second seed in an Indian Wells field headed by world number one Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic defeated Rafa in the Australian Open final in January, but our champ said he’s found plenty of positives in the early season despite failing to bag a title so far in 2019.
“More or less I should not be unhappy, all the things I went through the last four to five months to be where I am,” said Rafa, coming off an injury-plagued 2018.
“Too many issues that happened to my body the last year and a half – but I managed well to still be competitive and be in a good position in the rankings and fighting for the most important events – that’s important for my mental health too.”