“It was love at first sight”, joked Nick Kyrgios when he was asked to recall the first time he got acquainted with Andy Murray.
The pair, who face off in the Wimbledon fourth round on Monday, are what Kyrgios would describe as “good mates” and have developed a fun friendship that often resulted in public banter between them on social media.
Of all the top players, Murray is one who has interacted the most with the younger generation of up-and-coming players.
Whether he’s playing doubles with Aussie teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis or offering a piece of advice to the often under-fire Kyrgios, or inviting fellow Brit Kyle Edmund to join him in his training blocks, the world No2 is easily the most approachable ‘Big Four’ player in the eyes of the younger guys.
“I think our relationship’s pretty good. We joke a lot. Obviously when he’s (Murray) in the locker room, it’s just instant banter. We just have a lot of fun,” said Kyrgios following his 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4 two-day victory over No22 seed Feliciano Lopez in the third round on People’s Sunday.
“He’s a very relaxed guy, down‑to‑earth. He baits me a lot of time. He’s always very funny.”
It is not the kind of relationship Kyrgios has with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal.
“When Andy walks in, we see each other, we just give each other a look. We can’t stop looking at each other for a bit,” he says with a laugh.
“When I see Roger, everyone sort of just looks at Roger. Roger has an aura about him. I think he’s the greatest player of all time. I just watch him. I don’t say anything. It’s the same with Novak.
“But Andy, I don’t know, it’s different.”
Murray has stood up for Kyrgios multiple times in the past, as he feels he can relate to the public scrutiny the 21-year-old Aussie deals with every day. A teenaged Murray was under the microscope from a very young age and knows how tough that can be.
“You guys try and wind him (Kyrgios) up the whole time,” Murray told journalists at Wimbledon on Saturday. “Every time he’s in here you’re trying to wind him up the whole time. It’s not really fair on him, to be honest.”
Murray acknowledges that Kyrgios has made mistakes in the past, but he believes the Aussie is criticised even when it’s not warranted.
“It’s awesome. He backs me up a lot, which is good,” Kyrgios said of Murray’s support.
“It’s just good to have one of the best players in the world, to have a good friend like that obviously. I see him at times more than I see my family, so it’s good to have a friend like him.”
On the court, there are a few similarities that can be drawn between them. While Murray does not share Kyrgios’ tendency of arguing with umpires, the duo often direct lots of rage towards their boxes during rough patches on court.
Murray has asked members of his team to sit farther away from his box sometimes, but typically spends a fair amount of time during a match yelling towards them, while Kyrgios was flagged the other day for allegedly calling his entourage “retarded” during his third round with Lopez.
“It’s all in the heat of battle. I know some people can obviously get offended by that. I’m not meaning to be rude or disrespectful at all,” said an apologetic Kyrgios.
“Sometimes I’m just a pest. They’re always doing the best they can do. It’s obviously in the heat of the battle. Everything I say and everything I do out there, they all know I love them. So it’s okay.”
Kyrgios has lost all four meetings he has had with Murray so far – three of which have come at the majors – but this will be their first clash on grass.
One of two Aussie men, alongside Bernard Tomic, to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon – the first time this has happened since 2004 – Kyrgios is into the second week at the All England Club for the third time in as many appearances.
The No15 seed has navigated a monster draw, taking out Radek Stepanek, Dustin Brown and Lopez in his opening three rounds, and he considers himself one of the players who has a chance to go on and win the title.
“I rarely walk into a tournament and don’t think I can win it,” said Kyrgios, who reached the quarter-finals here on his debut in 2014.
Kyrgios is yet to play on Centre Court this fortnight while Murray has played all three of his matches there, which the Aussie cannot deny is a “huge” advantage. But he is not daunted by the big stage, and has played there before, beating Rafael Nadal nonetheless.
The Canberra-native feels he has made some “inroads” against Murray in their last encounter, taking a set off of him at the US Open last year, but is still aware of the massive task at hand.
Will the pair be sharing any texts ahead of today’s showdown?
“Maybe,” smiled Kyrgios.
Sport360’s tennis expert has divided the opening seven days of the tournament into nine different categories – from the Most Impressive Men’s and Women’s Player of The Championships so far to the Best Point on the lush green courts at the All England Club.
People’s Sunday has certainly teed up the second week in south-west London nicely!
What do you make of our SW19 conclusions so far? Agree or disagree? Get in touch on our social media channels and use #360fans.
MOST IMPRESSIVE ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE – MADISON KEYS
Into the fourth round for a fourth consecutive major, American Keys has adapted nicely to her position as a new top-10 star. While other players like Simona Halep or Dominika Cibulkova may have had more routine victories en-route to the second week, Keys has had to fight through difficult three-setters in the second and third rounds, against very tricky opponents like Kirsten Flipkens and Alize Cornet. The 21-year-old is on an eight-match winning streak on grass, having captured the title in Birmingham before coming to Wimbledon. She has a monster test against Halep coming-up in the last 16 but her statistics so far suggest she could well progress further on the grass, having fired 109 winners against 83 unforced errors for a solid +26 differential.
MOST IMPRESSIVE ON THE MEN’S SIDE – NICK KYRGIOS
The Aussie has arguably the toughest draw in the tournament this year. He opened against all-court magician Radek Stepanek, then took out grass-court specialist Dustin Brown, before overcoming three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist Feliciano Lopez. His path gets even tougher as he now faces a mission improbable against Andy Murray.
The Austrian came to Wimbledon with 59 matches under his belt in 2016, including four titles – one on grass – and was definitely one to watch. He had a daunting opener against Florian Mayer, the man who beat him in the Halle semis, but he got past the German only to fall in straight sets to Jiri Vesely. Everyone has been critical of Thiem’s over-packed schedule – he’s practically been playing every week – and his second round loss at Wimbledon could perhaps force him to reassess his build up to the majors.
The Czech is leading the tour in aces hit by an enormous margin, has had a perfect build up to Wimbledon winning Nottingham and making the Eastbourne final, and was seeded No15 at the All England Club, yet crashed out of the second round to world No49 Misaki Doi, who is now in a grand slam fourth round for the first time in her career. Meanwhile, Pliskova is yet to reach the second week at a major.
NARROWEST ESCAPE – ANNIKA BECK
The German saved three match points against Heather Watson to beat the Brit 12-10 in third set in round one.
FEEL-GOOD STORY – MARCUS WILLIS
The British world No772’s run from pre-qualification to the second round has been told and re-told by every outlet out there and remains an inspirational tale that reminded us all what tennis and sport can really be about. His sense of humour was a wonderful added bonus and we hope his Wimbledon run pushes him to new heights.
MOMENT OF MADNESS – VIKTOR TROICKI
The Serb’s epic meltdown in his second round on Thursday against Albert Ramos-Vinolas will remain a viral moment circulating the internet for a long time. Troicki lost it completely, yelling and growling at umpire Damiano Torella over what he believed was the wrong call in the final game of the match. “Do you know what you did?” said Troicki. “You’re the worst umpire ever, in the world”. It earned Troicki a code violation for unsportsmanlike behaviour and a $10,000 fine.
BIGGEST CONTROVERSY – SCHEDULING
Between putting five-time champion Venus Williams on Court 18, to leaving two-time champion Petra Kvitova as the very last second round to be played on Saturday, while others already completed their third rounds the day before, Wimbledon officials certainly got many things wrong when it came to scheduling this past week. Granted the constant rain – is it monsoon season in London? – made things very difficult but it’s hardly fair when players like Andy Murray and Roger Federer get to play all three of their opening rounds on the roofed Centre Court while other former champions got exiled to roofless courts.
SAM QUERREY OVER NOVAK DJOKOVIC
It was an upset no one saw coming as Querrey ended Djokovic’s 30-match winning streak at the majors and dashed the Serb’s hopes of completing the Calendar-year Grand Slam.
JANA CEPELOVA OVER GARBINE MUGURUZA
After a tricky opener against Camila Giorgi, Muguruza’s draw theoretically paved the way for her to make the semis or final but the French Open champion was stunned by world No124 Jana Cepelova in the second round.
“The All England Club has to have a culture where they want to have equality, as well. They need to want to pursue that. I would love to see where we don’t have to talk about this any more in the press conference.”
– Venus Williams once again shows that her biggest legacy will always be how she stood up for great values and gender equality.
“I got lucky to play Brits. Credit to myself for maybe winning as much as I did here in previous years that I do get put on either Centre Court or 1.”
– Roger Federer discusses his good fortune of playing all three of his matches on the roofed Centre Court, like only he can.
“He hit one through‑the‑legs dropshot, made me feel horrendous. He was hitting volleys that are spinning back over. There were times out there where you literally don’t want to play. You just want to put the racquet down.”
– Nick Kyrgios describes the challenge of playing Dustin Brown on grass.
BEST POINT – CHRISTINA MCHALE VS SERENA WILLIAMS
Serving at 4-4, 15-30 in the third set, McHale won a 25-shot rally with Williams that earned her a standing ovation from the Centre Court crowd. She may have lost that match but that is a moment she said she’ll never forget.
Recap a sensational victory for Sam Querrey over hot favourite Novak Djokovic, which has blown the tournament wide open.
Meanwhile, Simona Halep was dominant in the women’s draw and Andy Murray coasted through to the next round with a second Wimbledon crown a very real prospect after Djokovic’s exit.
Watch highlights and reaction from all of these matches now.