“I think it will be a bit of fun,” Nick Kyrgios said of the prospect of playing mixed doubles with Venus Williams at Wimbledon. “I think we’re a bit of a danger pair as well if we serve well. The crowd will definitely get behind us.”
So far, Kyrgios is right on all counts. The Nick and Venus show proved to be a hit on Friday. Other than an audible obscenity or two from Kyrgios, it was all smiles from the players and fans inside a nearly full No. 2 Court. And while they may or may not be a danger to win the event, the Aussie and the American did pull this match out in suitably entertaining style, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, over Austin Krajicek and Sabrina Santamaria.
Kyrgios said “Come on, V!” when he urged her to move in and take a shot, and “Sorry V” when he nearly drilled her with an overhead on one point and a return on another. He also gave us an extended glimpse of the racquet skills and natural tennis instincts that he has kept under wraps for the last five months. The 41-year-old Venus—who is a 16-time Grand Slam doubles champion—held her own with her younger court mates, and saved a crucial break point with a topspin lob winner. According to Kyrgios, though, once he was on the court, it became more than just a “bit of fun.”
“I just wanted to, not put on a good showing or anything, I really wanted to win,” Kyrgios said. “Like, I’ve never really wanted to win a mixed doubles or a doubles match that much before. I was really trying hard.”
Kyrgios and Venus first-bumped, cracked up on changeovers, and ended in a winning embrace. Yet it was the 5’2”, 28-year-old Santamaria who almost stole the show. The American returned even the hardest balls hit at her—redirecting them deftly—and played the whole match with a smile on her face. This is one of the side benefits of putting two stars together on a doubles court: The fans who come out may discover another player they like to watch. They may also discover that you don’t have to be a star to be an entertaining tennis player.