Kyrgios Still Doing Things His Way But With A New, Winning Attitude

Nick Kyrgios (photo: Peter Staples/Citi Open)

WASHINGTON, August 10, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Nick Kyrgios is in a good state of mind these days when he’s on the tennis court, whether practicing or competing in London, Washington, D.C. or Montreal. Whether or not it’s a sudden sign of maturity by the 27-year-old Aussie, it does reflect that Kyrgios is playing really good tennis.

“I’m extremely proud of myself and my team,” Krygios said Sunday night after he secured both the Citi Open singles and doubles titles and became the first man in the 53-year history of the Washington, D.C. tournament to win both crowns in the same year. “It was a really, really good week. It was hard fought, [I] had some incredibly tough matches.”

Indeed, he did. En route to winning his second Citi Open singles title and first ATP Tour crown since winning in Washington back in 2019, Krygios defeated Americans Marcos Giron, Tommy Paul, Reilly Opelka and Frances Tiafoe, then eliminated Mikael Ymer of Sweden in the semifinals and Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in the title match. In doubles, he teamed with American Jack Sock to win his second straight doubles crown after winning the Atlanta Open with fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis the week before.

With his seventh career ATP Tour singles title secured, Kyrgios jumped in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings from 63rd to 37th, and it put him in within reach of being seeded at this year’s US Open.

“Every practice was really good,” Krygios added. “I tried to be as professional as I could. I’m just happy to be sitting here, making history along the way.

“I think, as I said [Saturday], it’s a reflection of the last six months of how hard I have been working. I’m just really happy to continue the form after Wimbledon.”

With little opportunity to rest on his laurels, Kyrgios hopped on a late-night jet from Washington, D.C. to Montreal Sunday night and won his first-round match at the National Bank Open Tuesday evening over Sebastian Baez of Argentina, 6-4, 6-4. It advanced him to face World No. 1 and Montreal top seed Daniil Medvedev Wednesday afternoon.

“It kind of sucks to be getting Daniil Medvedev next,” Kyrgios said in an interview with Tennis Channel presenter Prakash Amritraj after beating Baez.

“I’m sure Medvedev isn’t thrilled about it, either,” Tennis Channel analyst Paul Annacone said Tuesday. “That’s not exactly who he wants to be playing.

“For Nick, I think it’s a great opportunity, it’s a tough match. One of the things that’s impressed me is his consistency. I never thought I would say Nick Kyrgios and consistency in the same sentence. But the Wimbledon final, then watching him through adversity last week in Washington winning singles and doubles, the most impressive thing so far was seeing him win both singles and doubles. Then, flying up [to Montreal] and seeing him win a first-round match. That’s a different kind of Nick Kyrgios in my eyes.”

As it happened, Krygios rose to the occasion and beat the No. 1 seed and defending Canadian champion, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-2, frequently relying upon a serve-and-volley attack to counter against Medvedev’s positioning on the return. Kyrgios improved to 3-1 lifetime against the Russian. He’s now won 14 of his last 15 matches on Tour going back to the beginning of Wimbledon. Next, Kyrgios will face fellow Aussie Alex de Minaur in the third round.

“This is the fourth meeting we’ve had and I’ve had some success against him in the past,” said Kyrgios of his mastery of Medvedev, during an on-court interview with ATP Media. “But he’s beaten me before [as well]. I feel like we know each other’s games well. I’m not the type of player that goes into this match looking at rankings or anything like that, it’s just who I’m playing and what kind of ball they’re giving me.

“Today I had a very clean objective of how I was going to play, a lot of serve-and-volley, a lot of aggressive play from the back,” Kyrgios added. “I executed better than he did, that’s all it comes down to. He won the first set and I feel like I had opportunities there as well, so hopefully I can just keep this rolling.”

After his 7-6 (4), 6-3 semifinal win against Ymer last Saturday, Kyrgios pointed to taking every day seriously, practicing good habits. “Just from getting good sleep, from taking every practice session seriously,” he said. “I have just really been positive on a day-to-day basis, like I have just tried to create good habits on a tennis court.”

At Wimbledon, the year’s third major last month, Kyrgios surprised everyone with his run to the final, which culminated with a tough 4-6, 6-3, 7-4, 7-6 (3), loss to top seed Novak Djokovic, who lifted his 21st major trophy. Kyrgios strung together victories over Paul Jubb of Great Britain, which was decided in five sets; a straight-set win over Filip Krajinovic of Serbia; a comeback four-set triumph over Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece followed by a five-set thriller over Brandon Nakashima of the United States to reach the quarterfinals.

Then, Kyrgios took out Cristian Garin of Chile in straight sets and earned a walkover into the Wimbledon final after Spain’s Rafael Nadal withdrew with a torn abdominal muscle. Against Djokovic, Kyrgios won the opening set. Then, he was overtaken by the seven-time Wimbledon champion, whose mental game proved stronger, as reflected by the 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) final score. Still, Kyrgios garnered plenty of positive attention afterward.

“I think you have got a small window after a Grand Slam that people kind of fear you before they step out on the court. I feel like I made the most of it this week. I’m really happy with my performance,” he said.

Kyrgios was asked Sunday night if his Wimbledon performance was a catalyst in reigniting his commitment to tennis. He replied that he’s been feeling motivated for nearly the past eight months. “I feel like before Oz Open (the Australian Open), I decided that I really wanted to put in a good training block, and then things just started falling into place,” he stressed.

“The rest of my life started, you know, just everything was really good. You know, I had a great Australian Open. I felt like the tournaments after the Australian Open I was kind of reinventing myself a little bit on the court. I was incredibly intense, playing some really good matches. I had some great results earlier in the year.”

Soon, Kyrgios reached the quarterfinals at Indian Wells and made the round of 16 at Miami, both on hard courts. Then, he advanced to the semifinals on clay at Houston. From there, it was on to the grass-court season and Kyrgios reached back-to-back semifinals in Germany at Stuttgart and Halle, and won a match in Mallorca in preparation for Wimbledon. The Citi Open was the Aussie’s first post-Wimbledon foray on hard courts and he’s playing in both Montreal and Cincinnati to ready for the US Open.

“Played a great grass court season,” Kyrgios said. “Made a couple semifinals and was right there. I was always knocking on the door of a singles title. I was waiting for it. I felt like I was, you know, one of the best players in the world this year by far.

“I feel if I had points from Wimbledon, I’d be nearing on the Top 10. So, you know, I feel like I have really kind of reinvented myself this year.”

While Kyrgios has always been gifted on the court, he’s often been combustible, too – his own worst enemy. Yet, Kyrgios kept his mercurial self in check through his winning run during the ATP 500 event in Washington, D.C. last week that was the first big tune-up for the US Open, which begins in less than three weeks. Sure, there were still the very-vocal inner monologues on court, whether directed at his team, the chair umpire or even the ball persons, but … that’s Nick being Nick. His team – comprised of his girlfriend, trainer and agent – did their best to keep Kyrgios focused and positively energized during his Citi Open run.

Sunday evening, in a battle among unseeded finalists, Kyrgios, ranked 63rd, defeated No. 96 Nishioka, 6-4, 6-3, to win his seventh tour-level title of his career. It was his second Citi Open championship and came three years after he beat Medvedev for the crown in 2019.

“Honestly, I feel as if I’m a lot older, a lot more mature, and I feel like when you play on tour and you age and you get older, you realize you shouldn’t be taking these things for granted, the way you’re feeling, the way your body feels,” Kyrgios admitted.

“Also, I have a partner with me now; I see a future with and I kind of see that I have to provide for. So, I feel like my motivation is a lot higher than it used to be.

“I just feel like there is a small window I should capitalize on it. I don’t care about what people say about my tennis, like always disrespectful to the sport, all this, all that.

“I know that deep down that I try really hard to do it my own way. I know that I inspire millions of people, and I’m just playing for them.

“You know, I wouldn’t even say I’m playing for myself at this point. I just want to go out there, have fun, try my best, and do it my way. I think people are starting to see that a little bit more.”