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Nick Kyrgios reaches first Wimbledon semi-final with victory over Cristian Garin


There were brief moments when the lava bubbled and Nick Kyrgios’s temper threatened to erupt but, for those craving the Australian’s full repertoire of antics, this was almost an anti-climax. The allegations that emerged on Tuesday that the 27-year-old had assaulted his ex-girlfriend last December cast a more sinister shadow over his captivating run to Wimbledon’s quarter-finals and, after offering no comment, it was unclear what effect it might have on his performance against Chile’s Cristian Garin. The answer was unequivocal, winning 6-4 6-3 7-6 in little over two hours to reach the first grand slam semi-final of his career.

It will be Rafael Nadal who awaits in the last four after the Spaniard’s tremendous five-set comeback against Taylor Fritz. Kyrgios’s breakout victory over Nadal way back in 2014 announced his maverick but mercurial talent and the intervening years have often seen their rivalry piqued and turned personal. Their semi-final promises unscripted drama but then, with Kyrgios, every match seems to be a game of roulette.

On this occasion, it often felt as though he was playing two matches at once: outserving and overpowering Garin in public view, while waging an internal battle against his own instincts, resisting the urge to implode. There was still a running monologue towards his box, who stood up tirelessly and tried their very best to transmit waves of optimism, and later a half-hearted attempt to have a spectator ejected, but it was still a restrained display by Kyrgios’s combustible standards.

Cristian Garin sometimes appeared bamboozled by the Kyrgios serve (AFP)

Both players had overcome marathon matches in the previous round, with Garin, the world No 43, coming from two sets down to defeat Kyrgios’s countryman Alex De Minaur. Kyrgios had admitted afterwards that the Chilean’s clay-suited style made for a more preferable opponent and that prediction proved ominous. As precise and accurate as Garin was, Kyrgios’s serve was unrelenting and the yawning chasm in power between the pair was unavoidable. He broke to love in both of the first two sets, delivered aces when danger reared its head and retained his composure as a tiebreak threatened to drift away from him in the third. Whether that measured approach can last is now the burning question. “I never thought I’d be in the semi-final of a grand slam,” he admitted afterwards. “I thought that ship had sailed, that I may have wasted that window in my career.”

On the allegations against him, Kyrgios said there were a lot of things he wanted to say, but he had been advised by his lawyers to remain silent on the matter.

As ever, how he would start was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a sulking enigma. The grand reveal was muted to say the least, with Kyrgios subdued as he surrendered the first nine points in succession and he seemed intent on extending that misery when he volleyed back one of Garin’s groundstrokes that was clearly sailing long. But in a foreshadowing of what was to come, an ace belatedly ignited the crowd and slowly Kyrgios geared himself up to full pelt.

A wonderful forehand passing shot set up two break points at 2-3 and, although Kyrgios descended into one of his unintelligible monologues after wasting the first, Garin erred at the crucial moment to put the match on an even footing. From there, Kyrgios was able to stamp his authority, producing his best game of the match thus far to break Garin to love with unnerving ease.

He maintained his level and repeated that feat just three games into the second set to break again and go 3-1 up, and it became clear this was a different type of Kyrgios performance as he rejected every chance of provocation. Thrown off by a member of the crowd shouting out as he prepared to serve, Kyrgios flashed a backhand wide and stared down two break points. But rather than be perturbed by a champagne bottle being uncorked or a shout during the point, he rallied with a stream of booming serves.

Nick Kyrgios collapses on the court after sealing victory (Getty Images)

When Garin produced a brilliant forehand winner in the next game, Kyrgios did prompt laughter as he repeated: “That’s too good”. In truth, it was he who was playing at a level Garin simply couldn’t match. The Australian had to save another break point the following game, briefly threatened an outburst but then roared as two huge serves thwarted the danger and helped him to a two-set lead. There could be no doubting what victory meant to him.

Garin was tasked with mounting another fightback from the jaws of defeat and he refused valiantly to cave in the third set. He earnt three break points at 3-2 but on each occasion, Kyrgios summoned huge serves that left the Chilean shaking his head a little despondently. He dug in and mounted another charge on Kyrgios’s following service game, with a terrific forehand winner at full-stretch delighting a crowd that yearned for more action, but Kyrgios’s serve stayed impenetrable. By the time they headed to a tiebreak, Kyrgios had delivered 17 aces to Garin’s two. At 3-3, with nothing to split them, a wayward forehand handed Garin the mini-break. The crowd tried to rally him over the line and he showed remarkable endurance to somehow stay in the next two points, but Kyrgios’s pressure was too great to withstand. As Garin’s backhand sailed wide, the Australian collapsed behind the baseline and soaked in the applause, a Wimbledon semi-finalist at last.

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