Now that he’s scored an improbable ticket to the quarterfinals of the 2022 US Open by beating world number one Daniil Medvedev, it’s time to start thinking about Nick Kyrgios with a little more subtlety, complexity and nuance.
If you think you’ve made up your mind, I challenge you to loosen up those opinions and give this a little more thought. In many ways, this article is really more about you than him. Ask yourself about your beliefs in a human capacity for change.
It’s not one or the other with Nick Kyrgios. Both can be true.
There’s a phenomenon in psychology called splitting, where a person decides another person is either “good” or “bad”– no in between. He’s “evil” or he’s an “angel.” Many tennis fans have poured the concrete of their minds about this guy, and it’s become hard for them to see the human being with both flaws and attributes. Kyrgios has made some positive changes in himself while still exhibiting some bad antics.
This 2022 U.S. Open, I chatted with a Kyrgios friend who sits in the famed player box. If you’ve ever watched a Kyrgios match on TV, you know the place. It’s that crazy section of seats where Nick’s entourage is blamed, torched and verbally abused by the fiery Australian when things aren’t going well.
During his match with Medvedev, even the Russian started complaining to the chair umpire that the Kyrgios box was too loud. It’s a tough job sitting there. They get it from all ends.
But this member of Nick’s entourage told me an interesting anecdote. In the first round, Kyrgios drew (unluckily for him) his good friend, doubles partner and fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis. Having to play one of your best friends isn’t easy. When Kyrgios’s box started clapping for Nick after he won a point, he yelled at them to pipe down. The very people who are always castigated for not showing enough support were being told to stop showing support at all. In a sign of loyalty, Kyrgios didn’t want to crush his friend. Bros before shows.
It’s a good quality to have in a friend, and in fact, Kokkinakis was in that very box, now a member of the entourage himself, when Kyrgios took on Medvedev.
Indeed, the bad habits emerged. Kyrgios was given a warning for “audible obscenity,” he threw racquets, he nearly missed tagging a fan with a ball as he chucked one toward the backboard and yes, he yelled at his box.
Everything doesn’t turn on a dime. Kyrgios says that during the pandemic, he hit a low point in his mental health, from which he’s now recovering. He’s been accused of assault by a former girlfriend and faces a defamation case from a fan in the UK over the “700 drinks” incident at Wimbledon. It’s not all peaches and roses just now. That’s not the way life works.
What about the tennis? As he revealed in March, Nick hit the gym in the offseason. He’s improved his fitness. His game is more disciplined. 5 of 7 on break points converted against Medvedev is a mark of maturation on return points. Medvedev, who now stands at 1-4 against the Australian, marveled at how little he misses. That’s a change. The Kyrgios of the past was too quick to pull the trigger in points.
And yet the serve remains. When Nick Kyrgios puts 74% of first serves in play and wins 78% of those points, he’s unbeatable. Those were his stats against Meddy.
Nick Kyrgios is no longer the guy you said has all the talent in the world but always beats himself. After a trip to the Wimbledon final and the US Open quarters, something you thought would never change, is seeing some change. Maybe the next thing to budge will be your opinion, slightly.