London: Nick Kyrgios said Friday he was disappointed not to face Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, proclaiming that “everyone did want to see us go to war out there”.
The controversial Australian was handed a free pass into Sunday’s final after 22-time major winner Nadal withdrew from their semi-final with an abdominal injury.
Kyrgios, one of the sport’s most talented yet divisive characters, is in his first final at the majors at the age of 27.
Had he faced Nadal, it would have been their third clash at Wimbledon.
Kyrgios won the first in 2014 as a 144th-ranked wild card before Nadal gained revenge in a stormy clash three years ago.
“We’ve had a lot of run-ins, a lot of battles,” said Kyrgios, who has won three of their nine encounters.
“I’m sure at the end of the day everyone did want to see us go to war out there. I hope he just gets better.
“Obviously you never want to see someone like that, so important to the sport, go down with an injury like that. I’m sure I’ll play him again on a big stage.”
Earlier Friday, Kyrgios had posted a goodwill message on Instagram to Nadal.
“Different players, different personalities. @rafaelnadal I hope your recovery goes well and we all hope to see you healthy soon — till next time.”
In Sunday’s final, 40th-ranked Kyrgios will face either six-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic or British ninth seed Cameron Norrie for the title.
Kyrgios had never previously got beyond the quarter-finals of a Slam before his current visit to the All England Club.
He made the last eight on his 2014 debut and reached the quarter-finals in Australia in 2015 but since then his career has been punctuated by more downs than ups.
“I never thought I’d be here at all, to be brutally honest with you,” he said.
“But I’m just super proud and I’m just ready to go. I’m going to give it my all and we’ll see what happens.”
Kyrgios admitted that the prospect of playing in his first Grand Slam final had left him anxious.
“I probably got an hour’s sleep just with everything, like the excitement. I had so much anxiety. I was already feeling so nervous, and I don’t feel nervous usually,” he said. Kyrgios has been the headline act at this year’s Wimbledon. His spectacular shot-making has been accompanied by $14,000 in fines, spitting in the direction of fans and a bitter bust-up with third-round opponent Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Greek accused him of having an “evil side” and being a “bully”.
On Friday morning, he woke to one British newspaper headline describing his passage to the final as “Wimbledon’s worst nightmare”.
“If that’s what they want to write, I guess that’s what they want to write. I can only control what I do,” said Kyrgios.
“I’m just going to go out there and enjoy the moment. Since I was born, only eight people have ever won this title, like eight people. I’m just going to give it my best shot.”