NEW YORK – Nick Kyrgios promised he would do a show. And against defending champion Daniil Medvedev, the US Open was his stage. He said it took 27 years of perseverance and readjustment to be able to pull off this four-set takedown of the world number one.
Kyrgios has always had a love-hate relationship with tennis. For all the box office moments and games where he swept an opponent, there were other occasions where he lost his temper or was indifferent.
But it finally clicked, and after reaching the final at Wimbledon, Kyrgios could well be the favorite to win it all at Flushing Meadows. Playing a perfect match in tennis is a task for Sisyphus, but Kyrgios reaches the level where, when locked up, he is unbeatable.
“I just try not to let people down,” Kyrgios said after beating Medvedev. “I was in that press conference room a while ago and I lost in the third round, it was the worst feeling because I had so many expectations. I can finally show it now. I I feel like I’ve worked really hard. I just have a lot of motivation right now.”
Everything fell into place against Medvedev. Afterwards, he told the crowd, “I’m just glad I can finally show my talent in New York. I haven’t done too many big trips here.”
They had witnessed a two-hour, 53-minute match that included Kyrgios’ full repertoire: deadly serve, deft backhand slices, rocket forehand, touches of petulance and a moment many had never seen. before in a match.
No wonder he’s probably the best candidate in town now that Serena is gone. You can’t take your eyes off it. It feels like the crowd is waiting for their next Instagram moment, whether it’s a shot from the sky or Kyrgios losing his temper.
During the match, he smashed his racquet to the ground twice, threw a loose ball against the back wall inches below the spectators, was hit with an audible obscenity warning, and argued with the chair umpire regarding the shot clock. serve when he was trying to wipe the sweat from his hands.
This behavior could cause a crowd to turn against a player. But instead, every time he waved his arms towards the packed Arthur Ashe Stadium on the verge of breaking, the crowd responded with a crescendo of noise. Medvedev imitated him in stages, but did not get as much response.
In an arena that has looked like a heavyweight boxing crowd throughout the tournament – the players walking, the chest-thumping response to incredible punches or prized points, the celebrity attention, the playlist – Kyrgios is at home.
But it is his home in Australia that he frequently refers to. Even before this Slam, he spoke of the win-win situation in which he finds himself: if he manages to chain the victories, then everything is fine; if he loses, he goes home. He talked about being out for four months and wanting to put on a good race here to make his team proud.
The question is, why now? Why, at 27, has Kyrgios suddenly become so good and built a previously elusive consistency? Prior to this summer, his biggest singles comebacks were quarter-finals at Wimbledon 2014 and Australian Open 2015. But in the past two months, he lost to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final and has knocked out the world No. 1 from the US Open.
“I felt like when I was really struggling mentally, I was very selfish,” Kyrgios said. “I felt like, I feel bad, I don’t want to play. Then I looked at the people closest to me and how much I let them down, and I didn’t want to do that anymore.
“Then I don’t know, I just tried to look at my career. I was like, I feel like I have so much left to give to the sport. That’s it. I just trained I just put my head down. Listen, let’s get in shape, better shape first. Let’s see how it goes.
“Obviously winning helps. The motivation was there. It’s easy to train. It’s obviously easier to wake up when everything is going well.
“I was really sick of letting people down. I feel like I’m making people proud now. I feel like there aren’t as many negative things being said about me I just wanted to almost flip the narrative. That’s basically it. I felt so depressed all the time, so sorry for myself. I just wanted to change that.
After reaching the Wimbledon final, Kyrgios was represented by his lawyer in an Australian court. Kyrgios is facing a common assault charge related to a January 2021 incident in Canberra involving his former girlfriend, Chiara Passari. The case was adjourned to October 4.
He played doubles in Atlanta, won the men’s singles and doubles title at the Citi Open, reached the quarterfinals in Canada and the round of 16 in Cincinnati. He was maintaining the same form we saw at Wimbledon – since the end of the French Open he had won the most matches of any player on tour.
At Flushing Meadows, Kyrgios’ US Open campaign began with a personally uncomfortable, but professionally dominating victory over one of his best friends and doubles partner, Thanasi Kokkinakis. In the second round, against Benjamin Bonzi, he complained to the referee about the smell of marijuana around the field, and was later fined $7,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct after he swore and spat in the direction of his box during the match. His third-round win was drama-free: a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 win over JJ Wolf. But his toughest test so far here this year was against Medvedev.
After the win Kyrgios said if Medvedev had won the first set he knew he would have lost the match. But Kyrgios took that 63-minute set in a gigantic tie-break. Medvedev took the second but it was the third and fourth sets where Kyrgios later said he felt “so free”. The third set included the bizarre incident in game two after Medvedev was unable to return a forehand from Kyrgios. The ball flew into the air from Medvedev’s racket and stayed on his side of the pitch, but before it hit the ground, Kyrgios rushed around the net and hammered a volley home.
Had he left it alone, the point would have gone to Kyrgios, but instead his action saw Medvedev award it. Kyrgios later called it a “stupid game” in his on-pitch interview. “I thought it was legal,” Kyrgios said. “It’s gonna be all over SportsCenter, so I’m gonna [look] Like an idiot.”
But as he slammed an ace on match point, it was Kyrgios who stood tall on Arthur Ashe. “I didn’t celebrate too much,” he said. “It’s only the fourth round. I had quarter-finals. It was obviously an incredible experience to beat the world No. 1 player at Arthur Ashe Stadium. But I don’t like to celebrate too much after that because I know if I’ve played him nine more times he’s probably passed me most of the time.”
Next up is big server Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals. If he wins this, Kyrgios will take another step towards his first Grand Slam. He said after the Wimbledon final defeat that if he had won that match against Djokovic, he was not sure he could find the motivation to do it again. But here in New York, he loves the sport again and everything is falling into place.
“It’s the last biggest tournament of the year,” Kyrgios said. “We realize it’s next week that we’re going home. But three more matches potentially, then we’ll never have to play tennis again.”