The Nick Kyrgios haters should start worrying because the young Aussie is giving them less and less reasons to hate him.
Those watching closely over the past two months will no doubt have noticed the progress Kyrgios has made.
Not just in terms of consistency in results – his last four tournaments have been semis, quarters, semis, semis – but more importantly in his focus, on-court demeanour, and willingness to fight.
Kyrgios, ranked No16 in the world, had spoken earlier this season about how he often struggles to “turn up” for matches against lower-ranked opponents compared to the way he goes all out for his clashes against the superstars. It was something he vowed to work on.
Since his Australian Open defeat to an 89th-ranked Andreas Seppi, Kyrgios has lost to just one opponent ranked lower than he is and that was an in-form Sam Querrey, who played lights-out tennis in Acapulco taking out Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal en route to the title.
His only other defeats have been to a sixth-ranked Roger Federer, an 11th-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and a bout of food poisoning that forced him to withdraw from the Indian Wells quarter-finals.
Granted, Kyrgios is still temperamental on the court, smashing racquets and yelling at fans but that behaviour is not exclusive to the Canberra-native. Even Federer once screamed “shut up” at people in the stands. It remains the umpire’s duty to make sure Kyrgios gets punished for unacceptable behaviour on the court.
Kyrgios has mostly been exhibiting positive body language in recent weeks and more than anything, he’s been fighting for each and every win.
His trio of losses in February and March all went the distance and his three-hour battle against Federer on Friday was the definition of never-say-die attitude.
His ‘tweener’ shots made highlight reels all around the world, most notably on TV stations in the United States, in a month where college basketball’s March Madness hogs all the attention there.
While he admits that he still has a way to go in terms of bolstering his mental fortitude, the one obvious fact is that Kyrgios is trying. He’s trying to be tougher mentally and he’s trying to keep his head in the game, while still maintaining his playful and confident persona on the court.
Kyrgios has been referred to as ‘box office’ in the past. Now he’s actually acting like it week in, week out. The question remains: How long will he sustain this?
Being healthy will prove crucial in the upcoming months. He’ll be away from home for a long stretch of tournaments during the European clay and grass seasons, which is something Kyrgios confessed to really struggle with. If you add physical woes to that then things might get tougher for the Aussie once again.
The positive thing is that Kyrgios’ girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic has recovered from her injury and is back on tour which certainly makes the tour life a far less hostile environment for him to handle.
It’s often a fool’s errand to speculate about Kyrgios’ future but he’s definitely giving us more and more reasons to believe in him.
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