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"How am I here?": Nick Kyrgios was two sets away from winning Wimbledon—and is OK with it
"I've committed everything I can commit these two weeks and I just came up short. I was taught that's all right,” the Aussie reflected. Will Sunday's major final debut spur him on to approach future tournaments the same?
Published Jul 10, 2022
CHAMPIONSHIP POINT: Djokovic wraps up seventh Wimbledon title
Nearly a decade after he’d burst on the tennis scene, in the 30th Grand Slam singles appearance of his career, Nick Kyrgios had reached a major singles final for the first time. Kyrgios’ effort in the final had been excellent, Novak Djokovic at last winning his seventh Wimbledon title by the tight score of 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
“But my level is right there,” said Kyrgios. “I feel like you look at what Novak has done to some other opponents, and it's not a good feeling. But I'm right there. I'm not behind the eight ball at all. I played a Slam final against one of the greatest of all time, and I was right there.”
Will this tremendous run spur Kyrgios to fully dedicate himself and pursue more such results?
Kyrgios conceded that a victory would have had a negative effect. “I feel like if I had won that Grand Slam, I think I would have lacked a bit of motivation, to be honest,” he said. “Coming back for other tournaments, like 250s and stuff, I would have really struggled. I kind of achieved the greatest pinnacle of what you can achieve in tennis.
How foolish it is to assess what the future looks like for Kyrgios. After all, what happened at Wimbledon this year strongly validated Kyrgios’ approach. From his reduced competitive schedule, to lack of a coach, to constant mid-match chatter and intermittent dismissiveness of everyone from rivals to media, Kyrgios proved once again that for all his romance of a team sport like basketball, he remains an exemplary case for tennis’ lure as an individual sport.
“I feel like I've committed a fair bit these two weeks,” said Kyrgios. “What more can I do, to be honest? I've stayed in most of the time. I've tried to just get good sleep, eat well. Not even have a beer here or there. I've really tried to commit. My practices I've really tried to focus, tried to work on things. Like, I've committed. I've committed everything I can commit these two weeks and I just came up short. I was taught that's all right.”
Kyrgios’ statistical tally versus Djokovic was outstanding. In most cases, numbers such as 73 percent of first serves, 30 aces, and 62 winners to 33 unforced errors, would lead to victory.
But then there were other occurrences. The first major turning point of the match had come in the third set. Serving at 4-all, 40-Love, Kyrgios lost five straight points. Soon enough, Djokovic won the set. The second significant plot twist happened in the fourth set tiebreaker, the kind of high-stakes moment any driven competitor lives for. Kyrgios was the one who blinked. He double-faulted on the opening point and swiftly fell behind 6-1. To assess what happened on those two occasions is as challenging as completely grasping Kyrgios’ relationship to tennis.
Disclosure: My sensibility has always tilted more towards tortoise over hare, persistence over flamboyance, homework over cramming, sincere immersion over ironic distance. Though Jimmy Connors’ vulgarity was always disturbing, his fidelity to full-fledged competition was what won me over to him. So naturally, I find Kyrgios’ mix of cranky and cool off-putting—even while I find it exceptionally compelling to watch the way points unfold when he’s on the court.
I've committed everything I can commit these two weeks and I just came up short. I was taught that's all right. —Nick Kyrgios
To a certain degree, Kyrgios is a descendant of another blend of shot-maker and hothead, Ilie Nastase, the great Romanian of the ‘70s. Though by the time Nastase was Kyrgios’ age, he’d already won two singles majors and would also be ranked number in the world, over time, Nastase’s temper clouded his ability to compete effectively.
Kyrgios’ fate remains uncertain. He appears to like it that way, a see-saw attitude towards life and its possibilities that makes Kyrgios at once participant and witness to his own destiny.
“I'm just not supposed to be here,” said Kyrgios. “Like, I'm a kid from Canberra. A month and a half ago, I was actually in a facility playing basketball with some boys back home. I literally said to one of them, ‘Look, I think I'm going to have some fun and maybe win Wimbledon.’ Then, I'm here as a finalist. I didn't hit more than an hour a day. I look back at it and I'm just like, ‘How am I here? How am I here?’ You know, it's pretty cool.”
So where does Nick Kyrgios feel he belongs?