“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.
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