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Is Nick Kyrgios finally ready to unlock his true potential?

  • Will we see an all new version of Nick Kyrgios this year?
Aakash Kumar
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 18 Feb 2020, 18:11 IST

Kyrgios burst on to the tennis scene after defeating Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014
Kyrgios burst on to the tennis scene after defeating Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014

It's been more than five years since an 18-year-old Nick Kyrgios burst on to the tennis scene by defeating one of the all-time greats of the sport, Rafael Nadal, in the 4th round at Wimbledon.

Since then, the praise for his unmistakable talent has only got louder. Tennis experts have always been in admiration of Kyrgios' talent, with Paul Annacone even saying, "I think Nick is the most talented player since Roger jumped on the scene."

But while there has been praise for his talent and shot-making skills, there has also been criticism of his behavior and mentality on the court. Tanking matches, not competing at the highest level, being uninterested - all these things have been synonymous with Kyrgios. He once competed at the Australian Open after playing basketball during the off-season instead of training.

His 2019 season was full of ups and downs. While he won two ATP 500 tournaments, in Acapulco (defeating Nadal and Stan Wawrinka en route to the title) and Washington, he also had a handful of controversies to go with them. In Rome, he lost in the third round by default as he threw a chair on the court after swearing at a linesperson. 

Kyrgios won two ATP 500 titles in 2019
Kyrgios won two ATP 500 titles in 2019

Then in Cincinnati, he was fined $113,000 for five separate incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct. After that tournament, an investigation into Kyrgios' behavior was conducted by the ATP. After the inquiry was completed on 26 September, Kyrgios was issued a 16-week suspended ban and a $25,000 fine, along with a six-month probationary period.

But things seem to have changed this year for the Aussie. Following the terrible bushfires that ravaged Australia, including his hometown Canberra, Kyrgios led the charge in the tennis world for donations to the relief fund. He announced that he would be donating $200 for every ace he hit in the Australian summer, and considering the number of aces he usually hits, that was no small statement.

Fueled by emotion for his country, Kyrgios went on to produce a spectacular performance in his return to the tour at the inaugural ATP Cup, winning four out of the five matches he played. Then in the Australian Open, he played some fantastic tennis to reach the 4th round, where he lost to Nadal in four sets.

But what stood out for me was the fact that unlike his previous years, Kyrgios was really trying hard to win every match. He was putting in effort and moving around the court to chase down balls, which is highly unusual for him.

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Even in his third round encounter against Karen Khachanov, Kyrgios strained every sinew to win a very close match in five nail-biting sets, which he could've easily lost if he had lost his focus like before.

Kyrgios at this year
Kyrgios at this year's Australian Open

The Australian Open showed a different Kyrgios, one that was fully immersed in the job at hand. This was a player who wouldn't let his focus waver if things weren't going his way, and who kept his foot on the gas no matter what stage of the match it was.

It could be that a fully focused Kyrgios is a short-lived phenomenon. Or it could be that the Australian bushfires have finally provided the push that no one has been able to give him until now.

We'll get our answers this week, as Kyrgios is slated to play at the Delray Beach Open. It'll be interesting to see if he has finally found the desire to play focused tennis, or if he'll be the same old Nick Kyrgios.

Published 18 Feb 2020, 18:11 IST
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