Tennis’ latest bad boy, Nick Kyrgios, is at that point in his career where he needs to decide how he wants to hit the headlines – for his prodigious talent or for his deplorable on-court antics. The latest on his list of misdemeanours was the tanking of his 2nd round match against Mischa Zverev at the Shanghai Masters for which he was fined $25000 and given a suspension until the end of the season. His suspension though was reduced to 3 weeks after he agreed to see a psychologist.
Now as he prepares to put that ugly incident behind him and concentrate on not letting his immense talent go to waste, the Australian would hugely benefit by having a coach who could guide him on the path to greatness. Providing more positivity in this regard for the 21-year-old will be the fact that Pete Sampras, one of the all-time greats of the game, has expressed his interest in coaching him. In an interview, Pete was quoted saying, “He would be a challenge and you’d have to try and get through to him, but he’s one of the most talented players on the tour. He’s someone I’d be curious to talk to.”
Notably, 8-time Grand Slam winner Jimmy Connors has also expressed interest in mentoring the talented player. Kyrgios will definitely gain from the inputs of former players who have done it all, for they know the demands of the tour and how to sidestep all the unwanted attractions.
In this backdrop, let’s take a look at 5 former players who can elevate Kyrgios’ game.
#5 Jimmy Connors
The decision to list Jimmy Connors in this list might come as a surprise to many despite the 8-time Grand Slam winner himself throwing his hat into the ring. Their reservations are not misplaced though. Connors was himself a bad boy of tennis in the 70s and was never away from a controversy in his stellar career – just like Kyrgios. Connors was volatile, tempestuous and often went over the edge.
It is only natural that eyebrows will be raised at the thought of Connors coaching Kyrgios who needs to stay away from unpleasant incidents and focus on his game. But Connors is a champion, despite possessing a volatile temperament.
Maybe Connors can guide Kyrgios on how not to let controversies affect his game. The American is not new to coaching either – he mentored Andy Roddick, who was struggling to get out of the shadows cast by Nadal and Federer, for a 19-month period between 2006 and 2008 and also had a brief spell in charge of Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard.
This pairing will be extremely entertaining, one way or other, if it happens.
#4 Amelie Mauresmo
Amelie Mauresmo has made quite a name for herself as a coach, having been in charge of Andy Murray for 2 years apart from helping Marion Bartoli during her Wimbledon triumph in 2013. The Frenchwoman, who won 2 Grand Slam titles in her playing career, has also been credited with bringing an element of calmness and quirkiness to Andy Murray’s game during her stint with the Scot which went a long way in him overcoming mental barriers against the likes of Djokovic.
Which is why she could be a good fit for Kyrgios, who needs to calm down in order to focus on his game. Mauresmo is also a proven coach who can work with a top male star and Nick Kyrgios could be tempted to give the 37-year-old a go. It should be a mutually benefitting partnership if it comes to fruition. But a word of caution: Mauresmo ended her stint as Murray’s coach after deciding she could not help him with his on-court behaviour. That could be a potential banana-skin with Kyrgios, who tends to be frustrating.
#3 Lleyton Hewitt
2-time Grand Slam winner Lleyton Hewitt is a big admirer of the prodigious Kyrgios, to the point that he has come out publicly many a time in support of his controversial compatriot. Hewitt, who retired after the Australian Open earlier this year, knows Kyrgios very well during their stints for Australia at the Davis Cup.
Though Hewitt has no credentials yet as a coach, maybe Kyrgios will benefit from Hewitt's presence in his support team.
For Hewitt has been a huge fan of Kyrgios' impulsive game, as evident from these words - "He's got to keep his passion, that's the biggest thing. When he is up and about, he's playing his best tennis. You don't want to take that flair and flashiness away from him. That's the thing that can make him a top-10 player.” But after what has transpired recently, Hewitt might relish the challenge of helping Kyrgios climb up the rankings ladder while keeping the flair in his game.
#2 Stefan Edberg
The quality in Kyrgios’ game is there for everyone to see. That is an undisputed fact. What needs to change is his temperament and that is why Stefan Edberg could be an inspired choice. The 6-time Grand Slam-winning Swede who enjoyed a famous rivalry with Boris Becker during his days has also proven himself as a capable coach/mentor. Edberg famously helped Roger Federer rediscover his game in 2014 and the great man himself described Edberg as more of a mentor than a coach.
Which might exactly be what Kyrgios needs - a calming influence which can temper down his bad bits while accentuating his already considerable ability. Edberg worked a lot on the mindset of Roger Federer and a similar sort of touch might work wonders with the exceptionally gifted Kyrgios.
#1 Pete Sampras
Now, this should actually be a no-brainer. When one of the greatest players of all time sings praises of your ability and says that he might be interested in coaching you, there should not be second thoughts. Especially when that player is none other than Pete Sampras who has actually refrained from coaching players of even commentating on tennis matches for the dislike of travelling so far.
The 14-time Grand Slam winner admitted as much in a recent interview where he also stated that he might be interested in mentoring Grigor Dimitrov, the Bulgarian sensation who was once hailed as the next Roger Federer.
Nick Kyrgios would do well to beat Dimitrov to clinch the services of Pistol Pete. If this partnership does come into being, it could be extremely interesting. Sampras, who shied away from controversies and emotional outbursts during his exceptional career, will be tasked with keeping in check a player who is the exact opposite.