Nick Kyrgios – Balancing Tennis Life with Rackets, Balls & Words

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That Nick Kyrgios can beat any player on his day, and most players on his bad days is not mere empty rhetoric. Novak Djokovic and Kyrgios squared up against each other twice in a fortnight in 2017. They ended up playing four sets at Acapulco and Indiana Wells, yet the Serbian could not take even one off the Aussie.

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Not only does Nick enjoy a positive head-to-head against the current World Number One (2-0), he also leads three of the potential future World Number Ones in direct match-ups.

  1. Nick Vs Daniil Medvedev 2-0 ( Washington Final 2019, Rome 2019)
  2. Nick Vs Stefanos Tsitsipas 2-0 (Washington SF 2019, ATP Cup 2020)
  3. Nick Vs Sascha Zverev 4-3 ( including the Acapulco Final 2019)

Not a bad record for the current World Number 56!

Hard to say if it is these wins that Kyrgios is most proud of ( he certainly bandies about the positive h2h vs Novak to rile the Serb), given that his victories over Rafa in the R4 of Wimbledon 2014, and first (and only) win over Roger Federer at Rome 2015 were what catapulted him into public imagination.

Conventional logic might brand it tragic that we are left to measure Nick’s successes by comparing head-to-heads, rather than counting his records in Slam and Masters. He is already 26, and not getting more serious about the sport, which is he simplifies as sending balls above the net and keeping them inside the opposite court. His record against Rafa which once stood at 3-3 has slipped to 3-5. He won their first contest, but could never beat Roger again in their six more battles (1-6).

 Once considered a Slam prospect, Nick’s best showing has been Cincinnati Masters final in 2017. Here is a man (one of the 3-along with D. Harbaty and Hewitt) who managed to defeat each of the Big 3 in their first encounters, and yet his best showing in the Majors remains the QF- Wimbledon 2014 and AO 2015.

Currently, he holds the record for attracting the heaviest ATP fine yet, that is USD 113,000. He is also known for his ludicrous podcasts where he frequently berates and insults Novak Djokovic. Nick often talks about his lack of interest in tennis, which he increasingly finds burdensome, and would rather play basketball or pokemon. His on-court antics get him into troubles, his bad boy image precedes him. He says he does not want to play tennis only to win, but to enjoy the Tour. Kyrgios does present a curious picture for a professional tennis player.

Hear him talk and one would get the impression that here is someone on the cusp of Enlightenment. He wants only as much money as is needed to enjoy life. He has developed a shelter for kids in Melbourne, and plans on developing a housing project and a sporting arena for the underprivileged. Nick feels he could not spend much time with his grandmother because of his tennis engagements. Her death from cancer, in 2014, has changed his attitude towards life and sport. Life is here and now, he says, every moment of which must be enjoyed and not subjected to the tyranny of tennis tour.

Kyrgios lights up courts whenever he is in action. His serves still obey him, and rise ominously from the courts. The forehand is rapier-like and reliable. The backhand gives him no trouble. There is every shot in his repertoire, and then some more tricks up his sleeve. Not only is his game effective, but eminently watchable. His presence on the Court draws the audience in.  The live action swings from gladiatorial duels to theatre of the absurd. He is a rare showman who does possess supreme skills, but unfortunately lacks the concentration to go all the way. At Wimbledon 2021, he won two matches, one of them a five set humdinger against Ugo Humbert, but pulled out midway in his third round match against Auger-Aliassime. He lost his R3 match at the Australian Open against Thiem despite being two sets up. In 2020, he played only in the AO where he beat Sonego in straight sets, and Gilles Simon in four, then went onto play a classic where he edged out Khachanov 6-2,7-6,6-7,6-7,7-6. In the fourth round, Nick lost to Nadal in a thrilling four-setter. Nick must figure in any list of ten best active tennis players to lend the list credibility.

That he is popular among his peers and viewers is beyond doubt. His teaming up for doubles with Tsitsipas in 2019, and with Venus Williams at Wimbledon’21 drew lots of attention. Nick claims that the choking supremacy of Big3, the advent of baseline-based power tennis and hard core professionalism has sucked joy out of the sport, and that he wants to present an alternate picture of how Tour can be enjoyed by players and made more enjoyable for the audiences. Probably he wants to be the Mansour Bahrami of the ATP Tour, but then he goes on to swear at and misbehave with the chair, list endless complaints against Corona protocols, pulls out mid-way between matches, begins to serve underarm and acts as if he has lost interest.

Whether he shall be remembered for once delivering shoes to Tsitsipas on court, for his random rantings on Instagram or Podcasts, for that freakishly audacious  rear-forehand played at half-volley from between his legs versus Rafa at Wimbledon 2014,

Or

For something more concrete, behoving his talent, a Slam perhaps, a Masters at least, is totally upto Nick Bloody Kyrgios.

Or,

we could all be so wrong, and Nick might just be biding time till the Big 3 become footnotes in history, and then spring into the middle and grab some quicksilver, fresh as he would be for not straining himself against the Immovables.


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