Why tennis needs Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios is like a breath of fresh air in contemporary tennis.
Brash, rude, ill-mannered…
These are some of the adjectives that are usually used to describe Nick Kyrgios. But perhaps, the most prominent words that have been associated with the Australian are, ‘wasting talent’.
Ever since Kyrgios rose to fame after defeating Nadal in the Wimbledon 4th round in 2014, he has been in the spotlight, for more negative reasons than positive. Much has been expected of him, and watching his good matches makes you understand why that's the case.
Reserves of talent
Kyrgios is full of talent. While watching his fourth-round match in the Australian Open against Grigor Dimitrov, I noticed something: Kyrgios doesn’t hit his backhand. He times it.
The Australian's timing is perfect at times that you don’t notice the extremely small backswing he takes before hitting the ball. He is already famous for his booming serve (he once hit an ace off a 195 km/h the second serve, just after he faulted on a 190 km/h first serve), and his great topspin forehand, but now his backhand is a force as well.
How could you not expect great things from a man who hits winners from such a short backswing on the backhand?
Disappointing behaviour on and off the court
But while recent years have shown his great talent, they have also shown the vulnerability of his mentality. Tanking matches, not competing at the highest level, being uninterested: these have been serious hurdles in his path. Last year he arrived at the Australian Open having spent most of his time playing basketball rather than training in the off-season.
How do you deal with a player like that?
The best match of his career
But what last year also showed was that if Kyrgios is focused and is in the 'mood’, it’s almost impossible for his opponent to get the better of him. His match against Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Miami Masters showed exactly that.
It was a match that was considered by the ATP to be the best tour match of the season. I remember waking up at around 4:30 in the morning to watch this highly anticipated encounter. As the match progressed, I couldn’t remember a better performance from Kyrgios.
It turned out to be a very close affair. Federer prevailed by a 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 margin. Though Kyrgios lost, he had shown that if he was in his zone, he could blow past almost anyone.
Way forward for the 22-year-old
Krygios needs to get his mental act together if he wants to succeed on the court.
We saw glimpses that it is work in progress in the Australian Open this year, where he managed to maintain his calm most of the time during the four matches he played. However, one should not want him to calm down completely.
In an era where the likes of the Big 4 (Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray) have set the standard of gentlemanly on and off court behaviour, Kyrgios is like a breath of fresh air.
Kyrgios is slowly starting to find the middle ground between the cool and icy Bjorn Borg, and the fiery John McEnroe. He is currently out of action due to an elbow injury, but whenever he comes back, it will be interesting to see how far he has come with his temperament.
The 22-year-old has the talent but needs to invest in himself to justify the same. If he is injury-free and mentally focused, he is going to be a serious threat in the future.