Injuries, attitude and wasted potential – Is it too late for Nick Kyrgios to ever reach the top?
In sport there is nothing sadder than wasted potential. Sometimes it can be due to constant injury issues, other times it can be down to mentality.
In the case of Nick Kyrgios, his failure to reach the heights he was capable of are a result of both of the above.
Kyrgios spent the whole of 2023 on the sidelines and only played one game in the calendar year, a defeat at the Stuttgart Open to Yibing Wu. After announcing he wouldn’t be playing at the 2024 Australian Open, it becomes hard for fans not to ponder on whether Kyrgios will actually return to the court at all.
If he does he will have a big mountain to climb – inactivity can kill a career at the top level of sport.
The road back to the top becomes even harder when you look at the young players coming through, with Carlos Alcaraz winning two Grand Slams since Kyrgios’ maiden major final in 2022. Jannik Sinner is also coming into his own, and looks set to get his hands on a Major in the next couple of years.
While injuries certainly seem to have played a key part in Kyrgios’ failure to ever cement himself amongst the elite names in tennis, his temperament and attitude have clearly also been major contributing factors.
The natural talent within Kyrgios is undeniable. To be able to defeat each of the big three in his first match against all of them is no mean feat when you consider Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have a combined total of 66 Grand Slams between them and are widely considered the three greatest players of all time.
The attitude has always left much to be desired, from arguing with officials to personal comments directed towards Stan Wawrinka to telling a reporter at Wimbledon “I do what I want” when quizzed on why he broke the dress code by wearing a bright red pair of shoes and cap on centre court. Incidentally it was that particular year at Wimbledon (2022) Kyrgios made it to the final, his first singles Major final.
Admittedly, he didn’t end up having to face Rafael Nadal in the semi due to an injury forcing Nadal to withdraw from the tournament. Nevertheless, he had defeated the spaniard at the tournament before so he could have found himself in the final regardless. A spirited effort from Kyrgios, who took the first set against Djokovic before Djokovic controlled 3 consecutive sets to claim his 7th title at the All England club.
Not for the first time Kyrgios found himself arguing with an umpire during the match, this time demanding a woman be removed from the stadium. His reason for this being ‘she looked like she’d had 700 alcoholic drinks’. In fairness to Kyrgios, he wouldn’t have been the only one to make the complaint in that situation.
Kyrgios was gracious in defeat after losing the final, going on to praise Djokovic and saying that to come runner-up in a Wimbledon final was probably his biggest achievement in tennis. But he didn’t show the same level of sportsmanship when he was knocked out of the US Open a few weeks later at the quarter final stage to Karen Khachanov.
Losing narrowly, Kyrgios smashed 2 racquets in frustration. This was a tournament Kyrgios was regarded as favourite by the time the match took place after Djokovic and Nadal had been knocked out, and there were murmurings Kyrgios would be able to go one better than Wimbledon and secure his first Major at Flushing Meadows.
Carlos Alcaraz eventually won the title, saving a match point against Sinner in the quarter final before beating Casper Ruud in the final to claim his first Grand Slam.
Since that tournament, Alcaraz and Sinner have both established themselves as some of the best players in the world. You wonder whether Kyrgios would’ve been one of the top names in tennis for a few years now and whether he would’ve been alongside them today had things went slightly differently.
Kyrgios showed promise from an early age, winning the 2013 Junior Australian Open, along with some doubles titles. His only Grand Slam success at senior level came alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open doubles in 2022, the same man he defeated to win the junior title in Melbourne 9 years prior.
What the future holds for Kyrgios in tennis remains to be seen. It would be disappointing not to see him make a return and challenge for a big title in the future. The questions around him remain though; can he regain his fitness and more importantly, how much does he really want to?
Recent comments like “I don’t feel like playing any more” don’t leave fans with much hope. Saying that, spending a year on the sidelines due to injury must be frustrating. Fans will hope that if Kyrgios can regain his fitness and play consistently his love for the sport will come back stronger than before.