Alexander Zverev congratulates Nick Kyrgios after the Aussie won the Mexican Open.
Alexander Zverev congratulates Nick Kyrgios after the Aussie won the Mexican Open.

Real reason for Nadal-Kyrgios bad blood

Retired Aussie tennis star Sam Groth has weighed in on the bad blood between Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios, suggesting a case of sour grapes is behind the Spaniard's dislike of the Canberra product.

Kyrgios defeated Nadal en route to winning his fifth career title on the ATP circuit, which he claimed by beating fellow young gun Alexander Zverev in the final of the Mexico Open on Sunday.

Kyrgios defeated three top-10 players along the way - as well as accounting for three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka - as he put together the most consistent week of his career to remind everyone how good he is when he has his game face on.

But - as is often the case - Kyrgios wasn't just making headlines for the quality of his forehands and audacity of his drop shots. After his remarkable come-from-behind three-sets win over Nadal in the round of 16 in Acapulco, the pair shared a frosty handshake at the net - before the left-hander launched some verbal grenades.

The two appeared to clash over a time wasting accusation levelled at Nadal while Kyrgios also caused a stir when he tried to catch Nadal off-guard by serving underarm in the third set.

In his post-match press conference, Nadal accused his 23-year-old rival of being disrespectful.

"He's a player who has enormous talent, could be winning grand slams or fighting for the No. 1 ranking," Nadal said in Spanish.

"He lacks respect for the crowd, his opponent and towards himself.

"I don't think he's a bad guy, but he lacks a little respect for the public and the rival."

Kyrgios rejected those claims, saying Nadal knows nothing about the "journey" he's been on, and Groth added fuel to the fire by hinting Nadal's ice-cold approach to the Aussie wild child has more to do with results than respect.

Kyrgios boasts a 3-3 record against Nadal - which is seriously impressive for someone outside the top 10. He started the rot with a stunning upset over Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014 before beating him in Cincinnati in 2017 and again in Mexico last week.

Groth reckons Nadal isn't used to being upstaged - or even equalled - by someone like Kyrgios and has a chip on his shoulder.

"I don't think Rafa really likes Nick very much," Groth told RSN radio on Monday. "Nick burst onto the scene beating Rafa at Wimbledon so I think there's probably been something there from day one.

"To be honest, they're 3-3 head-to-head now and I don't think there are too many guys in the world Nadal would have a 50-50 record against.

"He probably just doesn't like it very much."


Kyrgios had his best week ever.
Kyrgios had his best week ever.


Nadal launched some verbal grenades.
Nadal launched some verbal grenades.

Not even Roger Federer has a 50-50 record against Nadal, who has the better of the Swiss 23-15, while fellow tennis great Andy Murray has only managed to beat Nadal seven times in 24 meetings.

Among the current players to have consistently faced Nadal in their careers, Novak Djokovic has his measure. The Serbian now stands at 28-25 in their rivalry, his most recent win coming in this year's Australian Open final.

Then there's the surprise packet of World No. 226 Dustin Brown, who has toppled Nadal in both their encounters on grass.

If he continues to play like he did in Mexico, Kyrgios is a chance of following Djokovic's lead and edging past Nadal in their head-to-head record.

The volatile talent will never be everyone's cup of tea - that was proved when he was booed at various times by the Mexican crowd during his giant-killing run - but Groth, a longtime Kyrgios defender, is adamant tennis needs him.

"You need guys like Nick to behave like they do and be a little bit of a villain," Groth said. "He puts bums on seats. Every tournament wants him there because he's unpredictable and he's an entertainer."