Nick Kyrgios is talented, exuberant, jaw-dropping and damn frustrating. The 21-year-old Australian bowed out of the US Open in four sets to compatriot John Millman. He was coming off one of the best tournaments of his career in Cincinnati, where he defeated World number one Rafael Nadal en route to the final. As a result, he was touted by many as an outside threat to claim his first Grand Slam title in New York.
Playing through the pain
Seemingly bothered by a shoulder injury suffered during the match, Kyrgios committed a number of unforced errors, double faults and code violations as bemused spectators and commentators looked on.
“My shoulder was hurting,” the frustrated Australian said post-match. “I wasn’t feeling it at all and then on one serve, I lost power in my arm. Just on my serve. One serve, then completely dead. It’s so dead and numb. It’s incredibly weak. It’s just so annoying.”
Kyrgios also talked about his ‘diabolical’ performances at Majors in 2017, adding that it doesn’t surprise him. The Australian was visibly frustrated at himself in his post-match press conference, but yet again he was the architect of his own downfall. Surprisingly, Kyrgios proceeded to play and win his doubles match the following day with partner Matt Reid. As many noted in his singles loss, the speed on his first serve was virtually the same before and after the injury. In fact, the speed of his groundstrokes seemingly increased as he flattened out many of his shots, particularly on the forehand side.
It seems the issues Kyrgios is facing might be more mental than they are physical. But only he can answer that question.
Over the past decade and a half, men’s tennis has been blessed with an incredible array of champions. Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have fought through incredible pain and adversity, both when there were thousands watching and when it was just themselves. This dedication is what it takes to be truly great in the tennis world, a sport where the differences between success and failure are so minute. Preparation, both physical and mental, pain tolerance, the ability to endure difficult situations and the will to win are paramount in the modern game.
Kyrgios does not show these traits enough of the time. He is able to display them occasionally, but by his own admission, that is not enough to be an elite player on Tour. “I’m not dedicated to the game at all. [My coach] helped me a lot, especially with the training, in training sessions, but there are players out there that are more dedicated, that want to get better, that strive to get better every day. I’m not that guy.”
When asked by a reporter whether he wants to become extremely dedicated to his tennis, he replied “I really don’t know… probably not. Honestly not.”
With the recent emergence of a younger brigade of players led by Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev, but including other names such as Borna Coric, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov, Kyrgios could the game pass him by before long.
Shapovalov, having played two matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open, winning against Kyle Edmund before losing to Pablo Carreno Busta, is in the position Kyrgios once found himself. The Australian is gradually becoming a regular on the outer courts and his star is slowly, but surely, fading. The only way for Kyrgios to rectify this trend is to win matches and work hard. But most importantly, he must try to recapture the enthusiasm that Australia fell in love with in 2014.
Perhaps encouraging for Kyrgios is the Davis Cup semi-final tie where Australia face Belgium in Brussels later this month. The Davis Cup has brought the best out of Kyrgios in 2017 although that hasn’t always been the case. Kyrgios seems to have grown fond of the team environment and has played some of his best tennis following Australia’s two Davis Cup wins this year.
The tennis world is in Kyrgios’ corner, but until the controversial 21-year-old starts throwing his own punches, he will continue to face an uphill climb.
Do you think Nick Kyrgios can still make it to the top of the sport and win a Slam? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?