Friday, July 1, 2016

WIMBLEDON: Nick Kyrgios and Dustin Brown to face-off in clash of epic showmanship

Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

There aren’t that many occasions in tennis where Australia’s Nick Kyrgios steps on a court against a player with more flair than him but when his opponent is Dustin Brown, the wow-factor scale tips slightly towards the German.

The pair will face-off on Friday in a clash the millenials would describe as “popcorn tennis” as they both look to reach the third round.

Brown, a Jamaican-German with long dread-locked hair which has not been cut since 1996, is a fan-favourite at Wimbledon ever since he beat Lleyton Hewitt in 2013 to reach the third round as a qualifier.

Last year, he played an epic match to defeat Rafael Nadal in the second round on Wimbledon Centre Court, before falling to Viktor Troicki in the third, also as a qualifier.

A recipient of a wildcard this year at the All England Club, Brown has a game that is unmatched on tour. Between his energetic serve-and-volley style, to his affinity to hit tweeners and inch-perfect lobs on demand, the 31-year-old is a human highlight reel.

“It's a circus,” is how the 15th-seeded Kyrgios described what a match against his good friend Brown would be like.

“But it's good. It's good. You know, his style of tennis, it's just big. He's got a big serve. He likes to come in. He's creative. I think that's important to have in tennis.”

Kyrgios himself is one of the most entertaining players on tour. He hits those stunning leaping forehands, generating insane power with a flick of the wrist. He has also mastered the art of a tweener lob and engages with the crowd like no other.

He admits he is a big fan of Brown and recalls one of his favourite shots the German had been able to produce.

“I think he hit an around‑the‑back shot against (John) Isner once. I probably watched it honestly like 15 times. He's got that ability. He can pull out shots like that from anywhere. He's awesome to watch,” said Kyrgios.

The 21-year-old Kyrgios is a huge threat on grass and with his No15 seeding, is tipped to go far this fortnight. The Aussie is on everyone’s radar and it’s hard to imagine this is only his third Wimbledon main draw appearance.

He won the junior doubles title here twice in 2012 and 2013 before returning as a wildcard in 2014 to shock Nadal on his Wimbledon men’s singles debut, when he was ranked just 144 in the world. That victory saw Kyrgios become the first man since 2004 to make the Wimbledon quarter-finals on debut.

He says he feels comfortable now in the big leagues and is happy to carry the favourite tag.

“For me, I feel like that's the great thing about juniors, I feel as if I'm so used to the surroundings, I feel I've played on a lot of courts here,” explained Kyrgios.

“I feel like my juniors success I had here was a big reason why I had success early on the men's tour. I felt comfortable and I felt confident.

“I feel this Wimbledon like I'm used to my surroundings a lot more, probably expecting a lot more out of myself. To me, I do believe I can do good things in this tournament, go far, potentially win it. I don't know, something like that. I mean, I'm just taking it one match at a time at the moment.”

Brown came to Wimbledon having won nine of his last 11 grass court matches over the previous three weeks, that included him winning a Challenger title in Manchester.

“I think he just waits for this time of the year,” Kyrgios said of Brown, who is a grass-court specialist.

“When you're playing a guy like Dustin, you hope it's not a day when he's feeling it, he can't miss, he's enjoying it. When he's playing like that, we all know what he can do, what he's capable of.

“Me and Dustin have been mates for a long time now. I'm a massive fan of his tennis.”