Nick Kyrgios stood on Centre Court at Wimbledon following his four-set loss to Novak Djokovic in July and was asked by the BBC’s Sue Barker if reaching his first grand slam final made him hungry for more.
“Absolutely not, honestly,” he said with a laugh. “I’m so tired. Myself and my team are so exhausted. I’ve played so much tennis. I definitely need a well-earned vacation after this one.”
It was a non-traditional answer from perhaps the world’s most non-traditional player, as he stayed in character as tennis’ anti-establishment poster child.
And then, of course, he zagged once again when people thought he would zig, playing a very busy summer schedule in the run-up to the US Open in New York. Kyrgios played singles and doubles at almost every stop, winning both tournaments in hot conditions in Washington D.C.
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He earned a No. 23 seed at the US Open, but his recent results suggest he will be one of the contenders. A potential Round 4 match vs. No. 1 Daniil Medvedev would be one of the tournament’s marquee matchups. He will face fellow Australian and doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first round.
Former US Open champion Andy Roddick noted that Kyrgios’ preparation for the year’s final major should pay off.
“Admittedly he says he doesn’t work very hard on his fitness, but playing your way into shape is a real thing,” Roddick told The Sporting News. “As far as being physically fit, after a heavy workload this summer, he may be as prepared as we’ve ever seen him.”
Kyrgios’ success at Wimbledon should give him confidence that he can handle the demands of a major, where it takes seven best-of-five set matches over two weeks to take home the trophy. Prior to Wimbledon this year, the furthest he had ever advanced at a grand slam was a quarterfinal, which he had done twice in 31 career major appearances.
“He navigated his way for the first time through a whole grand slam,” said Roddick, who is representing IBM and its contributions to the US Open, such as IBM Win Factors and Match Insights with IBM Watson. “A lot of upside for Nick Kyrgios. He’s got to be as confident as he’s ever been.”
Kyrgios made plenty of headlines during his two weeks in London, getting fined for spitting at a fan and engaging in some questionable behavior during an epic four-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. During other wins, such as against American Brandon Nakashima, Kyrgios was all business from start to finish.
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“The fact that he is able to do both makes it feel somewhat calculated,” Roddick said. “Tsitsipas and him, there’s no love lost there on the court. Once Tsitsipas became extremely annoyed with Nick, it was good for Nick. Maybe that was accidental. I don’t think there was any personal rift with Nakashima, so we didn’t see it as much.”
In the final against Djokovic, Kyrgios shouted at his players’ box multiple times and seemed distracted as the match wore on.
“Before the Wimbledon final, I wrote a little analysis and I said it was going to be interesting to see how he reacts emotionally to a match that he really wants to win,” Roddick said. “Usually, it’s like, if I win, I win, if I lose, I lose, and that’s just how he rolls. But this was a different story.
“(His actions) felt maybe a little panicked. The game was there, but the constant chirping. The histrionics felt a little bit different. Against Tsitsipas, it felt more calculated. Against Novak, maybe less so.”
Still, Roddick believes Kyrgios’ racquet skills are on par with tennis’ Big Three of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, something he does not say lightly. When it comes to whether Kyrgios is good or bad for the sport, he had some interesting thoughts.
“He is valuable,” Roddick said. “I can’t get on my high horse. I used to break stuff all the time. The only difference is, I put the work in. For me, the only part of frustration is jealousy of his natural talent and what he has.
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“The ratings go up when he’s playing, so love him or hate him, you’re watching him. By those metrics, it’s good. Do I want my six-year-old to mimic his behavior? Probably not, but I’m sure someone said that about me at some point when I was doing something stupid. Net, probably good. I just wish we would see more of him. I’d love to see him fully commit. That would be scary. I hope deep down he is curious about what he could accomplish if he did as well.”