'Don't know him': Intriguing plot twist in Nick Kyrgios' feud with Rafael Nadal

There have been plenty of reasons to believe Nick Kyrgios has turned over a new leaf this summer.

Perhaps the most surprising among those was his decision to play down his ongoing feud with world no. 1 Rafael Nadal.

Kyrgios will face his nemesis in the fourth round of the Australian Open, after defeating Russia’s Karen Khachanov in a pulsating and testing five set epic on Saturday night.

EXPLAINER: Nick Kyrgios' ongoing feud with Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic

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Asked about how he felt about the matchup with Nadal after his win, the fiery Australian admitted that while the two players didn’t like each other all that much off the court, there was a ‘layer of respect’ between the two as players.

“I don’t really know Rafa. I’ve never, like, hung out with him or anything like that. So I don’t really know how he is,” he said during his on-court interview.

“I don’t really dislike him. I never said... I mean, I don’t know him at all. Hell of a tennis player. Don’t know him as a person. I’m sure he’s okay.”

Nick Kyrgios has played down his feud with Rafael Nadal, who he will face in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday. Pictures: Getty Images

He elaborated further in the press conference later on, hyping up the pair’s differences while acknowledging one of the best to play the game.

“Regardless, if we don’t like each other or whatever, I think there’s a layer of respect. He’s one of the greatest of all time,” Kyrgios said.

“I also read that he thinks I’m good for the sport.

“There’s a layer of respect that we both have for each other.

“Doesn’t necessarily mean we like each other, but we’re going to go out there and give contrasting styles and personalities.”

Kyrgios shows steel in impressive win over Khachanov

The temperamental talent produced some of his best tennis to beat the Russian 16th seed 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (8-6) 6-7 (9-7) 7-6 (10-8) in the longest match of his career - a four hour and 26 minute classic on Saturday night.

This one will go down for the ages, Kyrgios blowing two match points across the third and fourth set and also battling a bloody hand, mini-meltdown and a superb comeback from his opponent to eventually get the job done.

"It was definitely one of the craziest matches I've ever been a part of," he said.

"It was insane. Had a match point in the third, a match point in the fourth. Then 8-7 down, I had all the thoughts.

"I thought I was going to lose. I was thinking about everything. I was thinking about the media if I lost, everything. It was crazy.

"It was one of the best wins of my career I think."