The Nick Kyrgios we wanted — part II
This is the Nick Kyrgios we have long wanted.
Focussed, courageous, respectful and entertaining on almost every point.
He’s playing again with heart and soul to go with his explosive talent and unorthodox creativity. The fans loved it at the Citi Open in Washington, where Kyrgios beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev to win the title, his second this year.
He has rediscovered the Nick Kyrgios of the Western and Southern Open in Ohio two years ago, when he beat Rafa Nadal with intrepid shotmaking, cheeky irreverence and decisive willpower before losing the final to an inspired Grigor Dimitrov.
Kyrgios then outlasted David Ferrer with guts, determination and stamina. Exhausted from two matches the previous day, Kyrgios won without playing his best tennis. Yet he was consistent and mature enough to hold himself together enough to win two tie-breakers in a semi-final where nobody lost serve.
Sitting courtside near photographers, his mother was ecstatic after the win. “We’ve made the finals of a Masters 1000!” Her son Nick, overcoming injury and exhaustion, was euphoric too.
After the match, Kyrgios credited his success to his mother Norlaila, who washes his clothes on tour, and his current roommate Matty Reid, who cheered him from the coaches box, saying “back yourself Nick”, “stay aggressive” and “the pressure is on him now”.
Kyrgios also praised Ferrer for telling him, four years ago, “learn to suffer”.
Kyrgios has suffered at times from injuries and his own temperamental genius, but he’s also inflicting suffering on opponents by unleashing 140 mph first serves, second serves in the 130s, blistering forehands and clever dropshots.
Like a road accident, Nick Kyrgios gets your attention.
He’s reinventing the game, even if he doesn’t want to answer questions about the “evolution of tennis” because “I don’t take myself that seriously”.
In two Friday matches in the Western and Southern Open in Ohio, Kyrgios did everything but bore fans, including Rafa supporters booing his antics.
In his afternoon match, Kyrgios sulked after losing the first set to Ivo Karlovic. He didn’t bend knees on his returns. While Karlovic (like every other player) sat during the changeover, Kyrgios stood ready to play, twirling his racquet like a baton.
Suddenly, late in the second set, he flicked and rolled a miraculous passing shot to win a point and turn the match his way. He smacked returns as hard as he could, and high-fived spellbound fans.
Between matches, he listed to music because “I’m an addictive personality” who repeats the same song until “it just sucks”.
He also got a hair-cut.
Then, in front of a full house of Rafa fans, he showed up Nadal. During warm-ups, he hit overheads on his knees, and swung behind the back to hit to Rafa at the net.
He played a shot between his legs in mid-rally, and somewhat condescendingly said to the 10-time French Open champion “good shot”. He blew shots out and let one serve hit him, all the way joking with fans.
It’s all part of the Kyrgios experience, and many fans — and journalists — love it.
Does this mean Kyrgios will win slams and become number one, as Ferrer predicted?
Much will depend on his physical and mental health. Kyrgios says he’s trying to become more consistent rather than “tanking” or losing interest in matches against lesser known players. Reid, born in 1990, could provide what Gil Reyes did for Andre Agassi — a supportive, stabilizing presence, a rock in the stormy seas of the relentless world tour. Other players, such as Ferrer, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov, describe Kyrgios in friendly terms, and they clearly want him to succeed.
Is Kyrgios ready for great things? I think so.
(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)