Sport is defined by its heroes and villains and Nick Kyrgios is happy to be the latter if it means people are talking about him.
Following the histrionics and bullying accusations after his third-round win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, there was plenty of drama but little controversy as he battled to a 4-6 6-4 7-6 (2) 3-6 6-2 win over 20-year-old Brandon Nakashima to book his place in the quarter-finals.
It is the first time Kyrgios has reached the last eight of a Grand Slam since 2015, when he was still a teenager, with the only off-court intrigue surrounding a troublesome shoulder that required treatment multiple times during the match.
Next up is Chile’s Cristian Garin, with a potential match-up against Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, eight years after Kyrgios stunned the Spaniard in four sets on Centre Court at SW19.
Even with a relatively unheralded opponent next up, Kyrgios is the story of this fortnight, and that is just the way he likes it.
Asked how he feels about the criticism that comes his way, he answered: “Honestly, I don’t care. I just smile. It’s so funny. I joke around with my team about it so much. It’s hilarious.
“I almost just wake up and read things, and I just laugh. And I never forget things, like the people say, whether it was three, four years ago, things that just stick with me. I have a massive chip on my shoulder.
“I sit here now in quarter-finals Wimbledon again, and I just know there’s so many people that are so upset (smiling). It’s just, it’s a good feeling.”
In many ways, tennis is crying out for superstars as the big three era draws to a close. Roger Federer is still absent through injury here, but despite being in their mid-30s, Novak Djokovic and Nadal have progressed untroubled so far this fortnight with the trio having won 19 of the last 21 slams between them.
Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are being tipped as their long-term successors, but Kyrgios believes he showed the way to get the better of these ‘gods’ years ago.
He said: “I was telling people back home that I wanted to go for the title this year round.
“People often forget this is almost my tenth year on tour. I kind of feel like I was the first guy who broke through young, like at 19, beating Rafa at Wimbledon.
“I feel like I was the first young guy to kind of show all the other guys, like (Alex) Zverev and (Dominic) Thiem and stuff, that they were able to do it, as well. I feel like I was the first one to break the mould.
“You look at guys like Alcaraz, Sinner, who are absolutely fearless. I don’t know, I think a lot of players think Federer, Djokovic, Nadal are almost gods and you can’t hurt them. I feel like I showed that one of them was human that day.”