As Nick Kyrgios lifted his sixth ATP title, winning the Washington Open, it felt like finally the tide may be turning for the 24-year-old. His battle against Daniil Medvedev proved he has the mentality to compete in the big moments and more importantly, win these finals.
The Australian found it difficult in the first set and suffered from back spasms but managed to regain his composure, fight back and win the opener after a humdinger of a tie-break. This seemed like Kyrgios at his best, the mode that makes his usual petulant play so frustrating to watch. He clearly is one of the most naturally talented players on the tour but his attitude usually overshadows his ability.
This week however, he was completely focused on his tennis - unplayable at times. In the final he remained in control by serving 18 aces and never looked threatened despite the close scoreline. He won the second set on another tie-break and managed to win the final without facing a break-point, showing the strength of his serve.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Krygios without some showmanship. Throughout the tournament he had been asking a random member of the crowd where he should place his serve on match point. This may be showmanship or it may now become superstition for the charismatic Aussie who was told to hit a kicking serve out wide to win the tournament, and that is exactly what he delivered.
Collapsing to the floor in relief this was the victory Kryrgios needed after a tough start to 2019. He disappointed at his home Grand Slam and grabbed the headlines for all of the wrong reasons in Rome as he was disqualified for throwing a chair onto the court and abusing the linesperson. Despite his undoubted quality, tennis fans looked to have lost patience with the 24-year-old.
By the time Wimbledon came around we were expecting more of the same from the unpredictable character. However, despite losing in the second round to eventual semi-finalist Rafael Nadal, he put in a dedicated display and took the match to four sets, impressing the British crowd.
Kyrgios is an enigma but this Washington Open win seems to have shown the best of him. As his defeated opponent Medvedev said after the final: “We all know how Nick can play when he wants to, and this week I think he wanted to play.”
The champion took that comment in good jest, he knows himself that he has to be in the right place mentally to win tennis matches. The smile could not be kept from his face as he beamed:
“This has honestly been one of my favourite weeks of my life."
Tennis needs to see more of this Nick Krygios. From his underarm serves to getting advice from the crowd, he is simply box office but perhaps the time has come for him to mature into the Grand Slam winner we know he can be.
At 24, he still has plenty of time to develop and win major tournaments and perhaps with age comes wisdom and a calmer temperament that will allow him to perfect his game. His personality is what makes him such a draw to tennis fans and we never want him to lose that spark. But fulfilling his potential would be far more rewarding that being the sport’s joker in the pack.