Now, definitely, Nick Kyrgios believes he can win a Grand Slam title
So often the author of his own demise, the mercurial Australian is enjoying proving people wrong
It was notable that, as he explained how good it felt to play one of his best ever matches at Wimbledon in the second round last Thursday, Nick Kyrgios should hint, perhaps for the first time, that he genuinely believes he can win a Grand Slam title.
“I think this is my best chance to win a Grand Slam, of all four,” he said, after his 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 demolition of Filip Krajinovic in the second round.
“I’m just happy, I’ve been working hard, I’ve been preparing for this tournament, it’s been circled on my calendar all year,” Kyrgios said. “I’m so excited to be here. It’s my best chance to win a Grand Slam, of all four. I’ve obviously got a very tough draw. Today I couldn’t have played better.
Maturity the key to best ever slam run
Speaking after his quarter-final win over Christian Garin on Wednesday, Kyrgios confirmed that he knew, coming into Wimbledon, he really could go deep and potentially win a first Grand Slam title.
“I think everyone has the same goal in my team,” he said. “That’s why it’s working. We all know what we’ve come here to do. I made it pretty known to them that I wanted to go pretty deep here and possibly even raise the trophy. I’ve made that pretty known.
“I just feel like I’m more mature. I think earlier in my career if I made a third, fourth or quarter-finals, I’d be on my phone a lot, I would be engaging online a lot, would be keen to go out to dinner and explore or just do things to kind of, not necessarily soak in the achievement, but just not conservatively just go back to my house at Wimbledon with my team, put my feet up, get treatment and eat, get good rest.
“I feel like it’s literally just been as simple as get some rest. Like, Nick, stay in the house. That’s not always been the easiest thing for me over my career .
Close to perfect second round, survived against Tsitsipas
His form has been great throughout. The world No 40 demolished Krajinovic, a man who reached the final at Queen’s less than two weeks ago, in the second round, hitting 24 aces, 50 winners and just 10 unforced errors. It was as close to perfect as it gets.
One of the criticisms of Kyrgios down the years is that he has always found a way, or a reason, to get in his own way, to let himself down. Sometimes it’s been through his behaviour on the court, sometimes it’s been his attitude. The self-destruct button has never been far away and the suspicion is that it gets pressed in part, because he’s afraid to fail, so does not push himself to the limit like some of his rivals.
He came close against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round but for all his antics, he also held his nerve under pressure to get the job done. That said a lot.
Nick Kyrgios at the Grand Slams
• Australian Open: 9 appearances, 1 quarter-final (2015), 2 fourth rounds (2018, 2020)
• French Open: 5 appearances, 2 third rounds (2015, 2016)
• Wimbledon: 8 appearances, 1 quarter-final (2014), 3 fourth rounds (2015, 2016, 2022)
• US Open: 8 appearances, 4 third rounds (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019)
Kyrgios : “I know that I’m good”
In his press conference after beating Krajinovic, when he was calm but forthright, he stressed how well he played, how good he is and how important he is to tennis.
“I didn’t want to remind people that I’m good; I know that I’m good,” Kyrgios said. “I just feel like people just don’t give me the respect sometimes because of other things that I do.
“There was just nothing the media possibly could tell me I did wrong today. I just know that you can’t possibly ask me anything and stir anything up. And I love it because then you can’t write anything. What are you going to say? Nothing today. Dumbfounded all of you.”
Kyrgios’s honesty is refreshing in tennis, a sport where often players choose not to say anything controversial, often going against their natural tendencies. Kyrgios is the opposite. Though he says he doesn’t get the respect he deserves, he also seems to enjoy the cut and thrust that comes with dealing with the media, much in the same way he often needs to talk to umpires throughout his matches.
“I’m comfortable in my own skin”
Against Krajinovic, and again when he beat Garin in the quarter-finals, there was none of that. Kyrgios did his talking with his racquet, performances that everyone knows he’s capable of, but which he has rarely reached in the past.
His serve has been like Goran Ivanisevic in his pomp. Against Krajinovic, he didn’t drop a single point on serve in the first set, lost just nine in all and only three on his first serve, which was in a perfect rhythm right from the start.
Asked to sum up his personality, Kyrgios said he’s himself, as simple as that.
Some people love to just tear me down. It’s just not possible anymore.Nick Kyrgios
“I just feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin,” he said. “Some people love to just tear me down. It’s just not possible anymore. I just want to give people who watch this press conference or watch my tennis to just believe in yourself, be yourself, don’t be someone else up here either. Don’t just say what you’ve been told to say.”
There was a tit for tat with one renowned Australian journalist, Jacqueline Magnay, who asked in what way he thought the media disrespected him following his first-round match against Paul Jubb, when he spat in the direction of a fan whom he said was abusing him, an incident that could yet yield a fine from Wimbledon.
“From a personal performance standpoint, my performance in my first round was just not where I wanted to be, especially with the way I’ve been playing and the way I’ve been training, the hard work I’ve been doing. I was pretty disappointed in my performance in the first round,” he said.
“Then obviously the media’s disrespect and just everything, it was just kind of a reminder to put you all back in your place from the performance today. He made finals at Queen’s, top 30 in the world, seeded. It’s a gentle reminder.”
Kyrgios: “I know what I bring to the sport”
And then Kyrgios offered an insight into what he regards as his standing in tennis.
“I know what I bring to the sport,” he said. “One of the most important people in the sport. Do you want to speak about that? Nothing to investigate there because it’s just factual.
“I’m extremely confident in myself. All the challenges I’ve overcome in my life. Proud to be up here and doing it my own way. Being able to produce tennis like that at Wimbledon, it’s a dream come true for any tennis player.”
There’s no denying his talent, there never has been. There’s no denying that he often crosses the line when it comes to his on-court behaviour, especially with officials. There’s also no denying that he puts on a show.
Finding a balance between giving the fans a show and trying everything to win remains a work in progress. But now, perhaps, he’s ready to take himself seriously as a genuine Grand Slam contender.
“I’m still having a lot of fun out there playing that level,” he said. “ It’s hard at times because I want to put on a show as well. Sometimes I feel like I don’t need to do so many extra things to put on a show and make tennis enjoyable. I think the way I played today was as enjoyable as ever.
“It’s always been a hard balance for me to find. If I can find that tennis a bit more often, we’ll see. If I can just continue to play like that, I’m very dangerous.”
Now, only Rafael Nadal stands between him and a place in the Wimbledon final.