Nadal still salty over Kyrgios ‘disrespect’
HEADING into the French Open without an ATP title for the first time since 2004, Rafael Nadal still can't get Nick Kyrgios out of his head.
The Spanish champion certainly has bigger fish to fry after an uncharacteristic nine-month title drought heading into his pet event, beginning May 27.
Still, it appears to be Kyrgios' extraordinary Mexico Open comeback thriller that's been keeping him up at night.
The Aussie star famously eliminated Nadal in the round of 16 in Acapulco after a rollercoaster epic that had everything.
By the time Kyrgios walked off the court with a 3-6 7-6 7-6 win he'd attempted a controversial drop serve, been heckled by the crowd, argued with the umpire over Nadal's tactics to slow his natural serve rhythm and delivered the coldest handshake the ATP Tour has seen in many years.
Nadal appeared to take offence when Kyrgios complained about the 17-time Grand Slam champion's refusal to play at the speed of the server.
Nadal went on to declare Kyrgios "lacks respect" in his post-match press conference.
The 32-year-old is clearly not about to forgive and forget the episode.
After he was surprisingly beaten by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals in Madrid over the weekend, Nadal singled out his Kyrgios defeat from out of the blue.
While trying to downplay questions regarding rising concerns about his form this season, Nadal said his loss to Kyrgios is the only one of his six defeats in 2019 that he actually deserved to win.
"Of all the matches I lost this year, I deserved this undoing in all of them except against Kyrgios in Acapulco," he said in Spanish.
Nadal had previously tried to move on from the flashpoint when he said he has immense respect for Kyrgios, and clarified his press conference comments in Mexico.
However, that attempt was at odds with his uncle and former coach Toni Nadal's criticism of Kyrgios in March.
"Rafa is totally right," Toni Nadal said.
"He lacks education and smartness.
"He should be fighting for the top rankings and instead, he is No. 40.
"He does not look like a bad guy but he has been disrespectful too many times to get back on track."
Nadal has also lost to Dominic Thiem, Fabio Fognini, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic this year - but none of those players were mentioned as Nadal opened up on where he is at less than two weeks before he begins his campaign for a record 12th championship win at Roland Garros.
Things are different for Nadal in 2019, and he is in an unfamiliar position after a series of disappointing results on his favourite surface.
Instead of celebrating titles and records, Nadal is having to explain why he has struggled to win matches.
His losses in Madrid, Barcelona and Monte Carlo - all on clay - means he is without a title at the French Open for the first time since 2004.
Nadal has won a clay-court title in each of the last 15 seasons and remains the tour's most successful player on the surface.
He only has an ATP event in Rome and Roland Garros left to continue that stunning record.
"It's more normal what is happening right now than what happened in the last 14 years," he said.
"I think I have tennis ahead of me. I have time ahead of me. I'll be able to try to win these tournaments that I was not able to win this year. And what I have to do is to stay fit and to keep playing at a high level."
Nadal said it was impossible to know what the current setbacks could mean for his future.
"We'll see," he said.
"Hopefully, I will accept this defeat properly and we will see what happens week after week, day after day. I'll try to work in a proper way, in a proper manner, with a proper attitude and then just believe in my possibilities and believe that things will work out and they will click.
"I'll keep trying until I can to keep playing at a high level," Nadal said.
"And If I can keep doing that, I will continue to have chances. If not, then that's it. There's no need to make any drama or overthink when things are going bad. It is a sport and in a sport it's a matter of winning and sometimes losing and accepting both as naturally as possible."
- with AP