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Australian Open: Nick Kyrgios v Rafael Nadal in a ‘super salty’ fourth-round grudge match

Before their second-round meeting at Wimbledon last year, Nick Kyrgios said that he was “not sure that me and Rafa could go down to the Dog & Fox and have a beer together”
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Mocking impressions, underarm serves, and verbals – Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal have one of the most personal rivalries in tennis.

And the latest edition lands on Monday, with the two facing off at the Australian Open for a place in the quarter-finals.

Kyrgios is the polarising 24-year-old Australian with a penchant for rubbing up his illustrious opponent – world number one Nadal – the wrong way.

The pair will meet in Monday’s fourth-round match at 08:00 GMT (19:00 local time) on Rod Laver Arena.

Somebody pass the popcorn. And, to use Kyrgios’ stinging description of the Spanish great, make it “super salty”…

Rafael Nadal has not dropped a set in his opening three rounds at Melbourne Park

Nadal and Kyrgios ‘go about it completely differently’

In terms of career achievements, Nadal is in a different league to Kyrgios.

The 33-year-old Spaniard has won everything the sport has to offer in a glittering career – which has brought 19 Grand Slam titles and automatic entry into every serious conversation debating who is the greatest male player of all time.

Kyrgios, meanwhile, is still to transfer a precocious and natural talent into mounting serious challenges for the biggest titles.

In a nutshell, that is why the pair haven’t seen eye-to-eye.

Nadal’s meticulous pursuit of success dominates every area of his life. He allowed himself a 24-hour honeymoon after marrying long-term partner Xisco Perello in October.

The more relaxed demeanour of Kyrgios, who can often be spotted in the local bars and pubs after Grand Slam matches, is a stark contrast.

And it irks Nadal.

“At the end of the day, we’re two different tennis players. We go about it completely different,” says Kyrgios, who is seeded 23rd.

Kyrgios has previously described Nadal as “super salty”, while Nadal has been visibly irritated by the Australian’s erratic on-court behaviour in the past.

To add further spice, Kyrgios cheekily mocked Nadal’s superstitious service routine in his second-round win over France’s Gilles Simon.

“I don’t really know Rafa. I’ve never hung out with him or anything like that,” Kyrgios said after his third-round win over Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

“I don’t really dislike him. I don’t know him at all. I’m sure he’s OK.”

Re-sale tickets for the keenly-anticipated match on the 15,000-capacity Laver are close to A$500 (£260), according to Australian newspaper The Herald, even eclipsing the price of those for the in-demand National Rugby League and Australian Football League grand finals.

How the rivalry sparked

Wimbledon 2014: Nick Kyrgios’s match-winning moment against Rafael Nadal

It all started back in 2014 when Nadal – then ranked number one, as he is now – was beaten by a fresh-faced 19-year-old Kyrgios in the Wimbledon last 16.

Ranked 144 in the world, Kyrgios wowed the Centre Court crowd when became the first man outside the top 100 to beat the world’s best player at a Grand Slam since 1992.

Wild celebrations, speeding through service points and outrageously-timed ‘tweeners – all still regular features of his high-octane matches – came to the fore for the first time.

Tensions between the pair barely simmered over the next few years as meetings in Rome, Madrid, Cincinnati and Beijing passed without major incident.

Then, in February 2019, it all started going down in Acapulco.

Nadal was furious with Kyrgios’s underarm serving as the Australian won a tight three-setter. That led to a frosty handshake at the net and then, when speaking to the media afterwards, the Spaniard accused Kyrgios of lacking respect.

A few weeks later, Kyrgios took his opportunity to hit back. That seemed to be triggered by Nadal’s uncle and former coach Toni claiming Kyrgios “lacked education”.

In an interview with the ‘No Challenges Remaining’ podcast,