The Nick Kyrgios Show, also known as Wimbledon, comes out for an encore

Wimbledon, England. Competing with talented tennis player Nick Kyrgios, a mighty Australian with soft, masseuse-like hands, is quite difficult in itself.

But this is only the beginning. Kyrgios, a practitioner of psychological warfare, can be even more formidable.

The outspoken, charismatic bad boy, whose antics have captured the attention of Wimbledon, captivates the huge crowds that fill stadiums to watch his matches, even on Wimbledon’s Center Court, in that supposed temple of propriety.

The middle of the draw, stunt throws between the legs, turns and curling of the winners and anti-social theatricality make opponents fight Kyrgios and thousands of spectators waiting for another episode of the most unpredictable and exciting show in tennis.

– Come on, Nick! they scream as if he were a darts buddy in a pub.

His regular skirmishes with officials break out without warning and can be repeated throughout the match. He knows how much he is loved and hated, and when a Grand Slam tournament becomes a soap opera with him, as in this case, his game turns out to be exactly what he wants.

“I’m sitting here again in the Wimbledon quarter-finals and I just know so many people are so upset,” he said after beating Brandon Nakashima of the United States in five sets, 4-6, 6-4, 7 on Monday .-6(2), 3-6, 6-2. “It’s a good feeling.”

Kyrgios fought his own psychological battles through extreme ups and downs. his erratic career. A few years ago, his agent had to drag him out of the pub at 4am because he had a match against Rafael Nadal that same day. He knows as well as anyone that tennis is just as much a mental struggle as a physical one, maybe more. He confuses the opponent by doing his best to get the guy through the network to start thinking about the drama and not about his game.

Here are the facts of Kyrgios’ fourth round matchup against Nakashima, a rising, level-headed 20-year-old American that took place two days after Kyrgios upset by Stefanos Tsitsipas It was a circus of screaming matches with officials that upset Tsitsipas, the fourth seeded Greek star, so much that he started trying to hit Kyrgios with his shots – and usually missed.

Midway through the first set against Nakashima, Kyrgios appeared to have injured his right shoulder and upper arm while trying to forcefully deflect Nakashima’s right hand serve. In the last stages of the set, Kyrgios, whose cannon feed is one of his most powerful weapons, grabbed and massaged the area around the right triceps muscle at transitions and between points.

He flinched after a few pitches and right hands and repeatedly rotated his arm as if trying to stretch the joint and surrounding muscles.

Unable to swing freely and unable to spin that almost 140 mph serve like in the first three matches, Kyrgios stopped chasing and reaching for balls. In the tenth game, Nakashima, playing with his trademark efficiency, jumped on Kyrgios’s reduced serve several times and won the first set 6-4. The young American looked like he was on cruise control.

The referee and tournament official asked Kyrgios if he was all right and if he needed medical attention. He brushed them both off, but when the second set began, he began to rub his shoulders more, wince more, rotate his arms more. Forehand Kyrgios turned into a whip on the wrist, and not a windmill, throwing opponents back.

Sometimes there is nothing more difficult than playing against an injured opponent. Players tell themselves not to change anything, to play as if everything is fine. But the mind can instinctively relax, telling you not to hit the next right hand so close to the line, or so hard, because it may not be necessary against a weakened opponent.

On Monday afternoon, Nakashima couldn’t ignore Kyrgios’ wincing and shoulder grabs, and his much slower-than-usual moves from one side of the court to the other in search of the next point.

The more Kyrgios rubbed that shoulder, the more insecure Nakashima became. He missed seven of the first eight innings in the third game of the second set, then missed from the right at break point, and suddenly Kyrgios had momentum.

And then the numbers on the board, tracking Kyrgios’ pitching speed, began to rise from 110 to 120 mph and beyond. And exploded forehands began to appear again. Serving at a tight moment late in the set, Kyrgios hit 137 and 132 on the radar. A few minutes later he was already there.

Nakashima calmed down early in the third set. During the serve, Kyrgios called a physiotherapist and a medical timeout. While Kyrgios was being massaged, Nakashima got up from his chair and instead of Kyrgios performed exercises with a shadow facing the stands.

Back on the court, Kyrgios again filed at speeds in excess of 190 mph. He extended his 129 mph ace tiebreaker lead and then won it by slicing a right hand back.

“He still served well after the medical timeout, still coming off the ball, so I don’t think it was that much of an injury,” said Nakashima, who had no responses to Kyrgios’ serve or a forehand in the third set. . tie-break.

This shoulder drama – Kyrgios later described it as one of his “gags” that he treated with painkillers – ended there.

Another set, another mind game. Kyrgios, serving at 3-5, could win the game and force Nakashima to serve a set so that Kyrgios could serve first in the deciding act.

Not so much. How about three pitches at 75 mph, one sneaky, and a forehand at a set point clearly out of bounds? (She hit the target.) Was Kyrgios leaving now?

“A complete rope and dope tactic,” Kyrgios said. “I just threw out that utility game. I knew he was in rhythm. He started to climb on me. I kind of just wanted to knock him down a bit.”

It worked, judging by the aces, and with a running volley, he shaved off the grass perfectly in his first serve.

There were issues with calls that he thought were wrong and a few pictures of him that were clearly not true. Nakashima served on a deuce at 1-1, which was an opportune moment for Kyrgios to start arguing with the referee in the chair. He then hit a backhand as a break point and hit backspin squash to cause an innings break error.

And it was mostly curtains from there. A 134 mph serve put Kyrgios at 5-2. A surprise serve and a volley on the second serve at match point sealed him.

Cristian Garin of Chile, ranked 43rd in the world, advanced to the quarter-finals next. The show goes on and maybe goes on and on.