Sunday night, under the bright lights of New York, Nick Kyrgios was giving fans every dollar’s worth of admission price. His on-court behaviour and antics over his career have always been a topic for discussion but in his round of sixteen match up, in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, it was his tennis doing the talking. The Australian is in career-best form and riding a wave of confidence after his impressive Wimbledon campaign where he fell short in the final to Novak Djokovic. This confidence was on full display as Kyrgios dazzled fans with his amazing shot selection and his newfound ability to be engaged in points for longer. His opponent, world number one Daniil Medvedev, struggled to adjust to the variety of shots presented his way, but it was Kyrgios’ elevated level of play that was the main difference on the night.
Briefly touching on the match itself provides great context and insight for the main point of this article. That point being: investigating where Kyrgios’ newfound form has come from. As Kyrgios and Medvedev battled away in the first set, you could tell the margins for error were going to be slim. Both players were playing at a high level and demanding the best from each other. They both broke each other’s service games but composed themselves to force a set one tiebreak.
Kyrgios went on to win the nail-biting tiebreak 13-11, where both players saved set points. This is where signs of growth could be seen in Kyrgios’ game and the reasoning for his resurgence in form. His ability to stay focused for such a long first set tiebreak was less impressive than what unfolded next in the match. He lost the second set 6-3 and was becoming notably frustrated with his drop in play which caused some under the breath profanities. Over the years, history would suggest this being the time in matches for Kyrgios to unravel and fade away on the scoreboard. But recent history at Wimbledon and his first week of play at the US Open suggests that something has changed, and as result, going deeper than ever before at grand slams.
Anyone new to tennis could be shown a Kyrgios match and highlight reel and assume that they are watching the best player in the world. His lightning serve along with his touch and feel for the ball leaves most fans grinning ear to ear. But, as many Tennis fans know, it is not Kyrgios’ skill level that has ever been questioned, it is his ability to stay engaged over the course of a match whilst keeping his emotions in check.
After the Aussie stars run to the Wimbledon final and opening week in New York, it is evident that something has changed in his approach to the game. His skill level has always been world-class but what is setting him apart in recent months is his ability to stay focused for longer. A new self-belief that he can win a grand slam if he commits himself one hundred per cent. Kyrgios went on to beat Medvedev in four sets, in a display that you could argue highlighted more about his mental toughness and attitude over any fierce shots he played.
Now, there is no such thing as smooth sailing in a Kyrgios match and nor should there be. Fans flock to the stands in large numbers to see him play for a reason. You always know you’re going to be entertained with his bag of tricks and heavy hitting. His unpredictability leaves fans on the edge of their seats, or in the case of the Australian Open this year, jumping on their seats celebrating a doubles grand slam title.
You would be lying if Kyrgios’ unpredictable behaviour was not one of the reasons for watching him play. Once described as a “ticking time bomb” by retired tennis star, Andy Roddick, no one can escape Kyrgios’ wrath when things turn sour, not even his own playing box. But this is where Kyrgios’ newfound form and attitude has grown from.
Kyrgios, in his post-match press conference against Medvedev, was asked about his resurgence of form. He stated, ‘’I felt when I was struggling mentally I was very selfish. I would feel bad, and wouldn’t want to play. Then, I looked at the people closest to me, and how much I was letting them down. I didn’t want to do that anymore.”
Watching him deliver that statement you could tell how genuine his words and emotions were. He looked down at the desk and appeared to be holding back tears. As a tennis fan, but more importantly, a human being, you can’t help but sympathise with someone who is so openly admitting their struggles to a global audience. I will be the first to admit that I have not liked some of Kyrgios’ on-court antics over the years, but his statement last night highlighted he is working towards positive change in all aspects of life, in and out of tennis.
His playing box have copped some verbal abuse from him in recent times with many critics suggesting for them to leave his matches. But, you have to credit them for sticking with the Aussie through thick and thin. Their support on Sunday proved that they can help in big moments of the match, keeping Kyrgios composed and focused. Knocking out Medvedev and advancing to his first US Open quarter final is a big statement. But the statement made in last night’s press conference is the one of more significance. It highlights the growth of Kyrgios and the reasoning for his improved motivation. His emotion in that statement lets you know he wants to change the narrative surrounding him for the better.