As crazy as it may sound, Nick Kyrgios is my pick to win the US Open.
Nick Kyrgios is also my pick to embarrass himself by not trying, by losing his mind, and/or by acting like a spoiled brat at some point at the US Open.
The odds for the second happening are likely much higher than the first, even though the 22-year-old just made his first Masters Series final at Cincinnati on Sunday.
On his way to the final, which he dropped to Grigor Dimitrov, Kyrgios defeated the newly crowned #1 player in the world, Rafael Nadal, in a dominant performance that was a prime example of what he is capable of if he really wants to compete.
Just over two and a half weeks earlier, Kyrgios gave up in his first match in Washington, DC, trailing 6-3, 3-0 before retiring to American Tennys Sandgren. He was visibly seen mouthing to his mother, who was watching courtside, telling her he didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to play in the night match. If he was nursing an injury that could be understandable, but he was healthy enough to win two matches before losing to eventual winner Alexander Zverev in Montreal the next week, then played six matches in seven days in Cincy.
Kyrgios is unpredictable and a total head-case on the court. You have no idea if you are going to see the Nick Kyrgios who can defeat any player on any surface, or the guy who can lose to any player on any surface. He’s 12-17 against Top 10 players, and defeated Novak Djokovic in back-to-back tournaments earlier this season. He’s also lost in the first or second round at all three Grand Slams this year to players ranked 56th (Kevin Anderson), 70th (Pierre-Hugues Herbert), and 89th (Andreas Seppi).
Fans either love him or hate him. It has to be maddening to buy a ticket to his matches, because you may get your money’s worth or you may get a 15-minute match where he just decides to quit. You could see spectacular shots and ridiculous talent, or a guy try to hit a ball with the handle of the racket.
I used to absolutely hate watching Nick Kyrgios for exactly those reasons. He may have the most talent of any player on the tour, yet he pisses it away on a regular basis. I have written about him before, calling him a spoiled brat in the title and venting about his lack of professionalism (must run in the Aussie blood since Bernard Tomic is an even bigger toolbag than Kyrgios).
And yet at some point, he converted me into a fan. In fact, I’m not just a fan; I’m captivated watching him play.
I know what I’m getting myself into, and yet it’s must-see TV.
And to be honest, he reminds me a lot of myself, which is probably not a great compliment.
I’ve heard stories about how nice of a person Kyrgios is off the court. A fan asked him if they could hit together for a few minutes prior to the Rogers Cup in Montreal, and Kyrgios not only replied, but actually hit some balls with him on the practice courts. US Davis Cup captain Jim Courier noted recently that Kyrgios chatted up everyone on the opposing side during their USA vs. Australia matchup, which is uncommon in the team event. During his match against Zverev in Montreal, Kyrgios playfully knocked the cap off of one of the ball kids after a point.
But there’s something that happens to Kyrgios on the courts that makes him a totally different person. Maybe it’s the pressure to succeed, maybe it’s the recent losses of his grandparents, maybe it’s the fact that he’s 22 and hasn’t fully matured yet, or maybe it’s something even more complicated. He clearly has some demons that he’s dealing with, which makes him polarizing, but also makes him just like the rest of us.
I’ve been playing tennis for the majority of my life, and I’ll admit that I’m a totally different person on the court as I am off the court. I’ve got a temper, I hate losing, I’m afraid to fail (that’s two totally different issues), and I’m just a complete asshole during most matches. I’d like to think I’m a pretty good player, but all that extra stuff has always derailed me from getting better or succeeding, and it really makes finding hitting partners or doubles teammates incredibly difficult. No one really wants to play with me, and on most occasions I really can’t blame them for that sentiment.
But I think I’m a pretty nice guy off the court. I’ve had a lot of personal issues, like anxiety, depression, shyness, lack of confidence… the list can go on and on… but I’m working through most of them. I’m a lot better person now than I was a couple years ago, and I think I’m still maturing even though I’m 15 years older than the tennis player I’m writing about today.
It’s easy to look at someone from afar and see them not living up to their potential, and just react by saying they’re a waste and look down on them. It’s even easier when they are a star athlete who makes lots of money even though they haven’t completely figured out how to be a professional and an adult. It’s a lot harder to see someone struggling and root for them, hoping that they get through whatever issues they have, and live up to their full potential.
I used to see Nick Kyrgios as a brat and a child, someone who was wasting away an immense talent.
Now I see him as someone who just needs some guidance, needs to grow up, and needs to find himself. Someone who needs more support than ridicule. And someone who could become the next superstar in tennis.
And hopefully someone who wins the US Open in a couple weeks.
Written by: Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)