Nick Kyrgios is one of the biggest names in tennis and it has been heartbreaking to see such a mercurial talent ruled out with injury for most of this year. An elbow injury has troubled the Australian ever since a Davis Cup tie back in February.
The 23-year-old surprisingly began his grass court season at the Surbiton Challenger event, although he only competed in the doubles with good friend, Jackson Withrow. The pair were defeated in the opening round but seemed to be in good spirits because they enjoyed themselves out there. I caught up with Kyrgios immediately after that match and asked him how the elbow was feeling.
“I’m pretty happy with the way my arm was going and that’s ultimately why I was playing,” Kyrgios told me, “I was serving at 100%, I thought I served really well.”
The Australian is one of the best grass court players in the world and unfortunately, we have not seen him win a match on this surface for almost two years. This statistic is very misleading because Kyrgios went 0-2 in the 2017 grass season, after retiring at Queen’s Club and Wimbledon with a hip injury. “Last year, this period was definitely tough,” Kyrgios said.
“I couldn’t play the clay season [last year] 100% due to a hip injury and then rehabbed for a week, came to Queen’s, slipped over and re-injured my hip.” It was a sad sight to see and obviously a very difficult moment for the 23-year-old, “I didn’t have a chance last year to play one of my favourite tournaments to my full ability.”
Nick Kyrgios feels that last season’s disastrous grass campaign was largely down to overplaying. “I got told not to play the French Open last year and I played it.” Kyrgios admitted that he was reluctant to withdraw from the 2018 edition after seeing his opening match was against Bernard Tomic, “When I saw my [Roland Garros] draw I thought I had a massive opportunity to do well.”
Ultimately, the Australian feels like 2017 was a learning curve and he did not want to have an injury littered grass season, “The risk of putting my grass court season in jeopardy again.” As I mentioned earlier, Kyrgios is one of the best grass court players in the world and anything is possible when he steps onto this particular surface.
“I think I’ve made a more mature decision this time and a lot of people are telling me it’s the right decision,” Kyrgios told me, “All my medical staff, I saw a multiple amount of doctors and they all told me it was a smart move to not play Roland Garros.”
The Australian had said that Wimbledon was one of his favourite tournaments, and I wondered how far he could go at SW19. “I’d love to do well there, I don’t think there’s anything stopping me if I have the right preparation in the next couple of weeks.”
At the moment, Kyrgios is just taking everything in his stride and not looking too far ahead, “Right now I’m taking it one day at a time with my rehab. I’m in a good place physically and that’s all I can ask for.”
Since the Australian Open, Nick Kyrgios has only played seven singles matches: in Davis Cup, Miami, and Houston. The 23-year-old has enjoyed the doubles side of the ATP World Tour. “I feel like playing doubles the last few weeks has made me enjoy it a little bit more.”
Despite this, Kyrgios loves singles and he cannot wait to make his return. “I’m ready to keep playing and obviously play some singles next week.” The Australian is also loving the fact that his mind is now occupied on upcoming events, “I’m concentrating on Stuttgart next week, Wimbledon is still a long way away and I’ve got Queen’s before that, so I’ve got a lot to focus on.”
The 23-year-old has already posted some world class results on grass: making the second week of Wimbledon three times, including a quarterfinal showing there as a teenager. I asked the Australian if he had any particular goals for the grass court season. “Obviously grass is one of my favourite surfaces, I just want to go out there and enjoy myself.”
When Kyrgios enjoys himself on court he is one of the most dangerous players in the world and can take the racket out of an opponent’s hands at times so the tour better watch out, “I haven’t been in this head space for a while where I’m looking forward to getting out and training and playing matches.”
As well as being one of the most talented players in tennis, Kyrgios is also one of the greatest showmen, along with Gael Monfils and Dustin Brown. What means more to the 23-year-old, winning or entertaining?
“At the end of the day, people pay to come and see us, we’re entertainers,” Kyrgios said, “They just want to see exciting tennis.”
Critics always say that the Australian focuses on crowd pleasing too much rather than results, but to counter that you could say you would lose a part of Nick Kyrgios if he was a results-focused machine. In tennis it is not a “one size fits all” sport.
Kyrgios plays his best when he is having fun and he believes that entertaining is a massive component of the game, “For me it’s the most important thing, I want to put on a good show.” The Australian gains new fans every time he plays and that is down to his blockbuster tennis and intriguing personality.
I can confidently say that everyone who watched his doubles match in Surbiton is now a Kyrgios fan. “Winning is good, but being able to give someone a memory of yourself or a certain point in a match is really important as well.”
The talented Australian has drawn positives from some of the toughest moments of his career, and learnt from them. We have not seen much of the 23-year-old in 2018, but he feels confident that he can produce his best tennis for fans around the world. Nick Kyrgios is ready to make an impact on the grass court season.
(Main photo from Getty)