August 5, 2019
Nick Kyrgios just proved you can entertain and still win titles with a magical week in Washington.
Genius, humour and audience participation. Kyrgios virtually rewrote what it can mean to perform as a top tennis player. That sounds like a sweeping statement. But the Australian did it his way. And no one had ever done it quite like that before. While lighting up DC and the tennis world, Kyrgios says he also had one of the best weeks of his entire life. By winning he moved up from that ridiculous ranking of 52 back into the top thirty. But more importantly for Nick, he just had loads of fun and so did we. To say Nick is now pure box office is an understatement, his act is simply mesmerising. He is enigmatic, charismatic and so much more. Nick isn’t just very, very different. He is unique.
Where shall we start?
Maybe at the end. With Kyrgios asking members of the crowd where he should serve. On match point! It worked against Stefanos Tsitsipas. It worked again in the final against Daniil Medvedev and bear in mind, that second tie-break against Medvedev was still very much alive at 6-4 to Kyrgios. Can you imagine if Nick did that on Centre or No1 Court at Wimbledon? Played “ask the audience” on match point in a semi-final or final? It would bring the house down! But it is far from impossible that we will see Kyrgios do this at the All England Club in years to come. Already many tennis aficionados know the new routine, after this remarkable week in Washington. After the consultation, you get the celebration. Then Kyrgios dashes to congratulate the spectator who has told him where to serve. A high five for a man and a big sweaty hug for a woman. They don’t mind one bit and love to be made to feel part of his victories. The entire crowd feels involved, they buy into it Certainly, the Citi Open had never seen anything like it. Had anyone?
Kyrgios, so often criticised for clashing with umpires and opponents. Now fast becoming one of the best-loved tennis players on earth. Still unpredictable and still potentially the bad boy of the sport and yet something has changed. He has connected with his audience, He has begun to show human warmth and a wonderful comic touch. What about that unforgettable mid-match moment when Nick collected the tennis shoes Tsitsipas said he needed? Kyrgios took them directly from his opponent’s father, to create a classic piece of tennis theatre. But that was just the beginning. It was the way Nick delivered those shoes at the feet of Stefanos, bowing and almost kneeling in mock-servitude as he did so. Head down, as if not worthy of looking the great Tsitsipas in the eye. There have been few funnier moments in tennis. Tsitsipas couldn’t help but grin. Some wag later described it as a “Cinderella shall go to the ball” moment. All done with a side-splitting comic flourish from Kyrgios, who likes Stefanos. Just as the Greek also enjoys the growing chemistry and rivalry between the fun-loving pair.
But it was Nick going to the ball that we will remember more than anything from this magical adventure in Washington DC. He seemed to tear up the tennis manual and create new shots. If he wasn’t the first ever to play them, he was surely the first to do so in a meaningful tournament. Kyrgios delighted in a leaping, towering forehand, a shot we have seen before from the likes of Gael Monfils. But Nick added a new dimension by sometimes faking the missile and instead, while still in mid-air, conjuring a deft, killer drop shot.
How does he do that?
We already know all about Nick’s underarm serve. Now he has learnt to fake that too, leaving opponents scrambling forward in mistaken anticipation of more trickery. Ever seen a flicked drop-shot executed with the comical nonchalance Kyrgios produced against Tsitsipas, on the backhand too? Who didn’t shake their head in disbelief at that one? And Nick is now playing tweener-lobs facing forward, almost looking his opponent in the eye, as he did to the disbelieving Medvedev in the final. It is all too brilliant. Supremely entertaining. Thank you, Nick Kyrgios. Thank you for showing us what you can be, for making us laugh, for bringing new things to tennis.
Surely he is now the world’s most entertaining player? More, please!