He’s on the front of every Australian newspaper, there’s a “Countdown to Kyrgios” clock on national television, and he’s taking on one of the best players in today’s game, Andy Murray, on Rod Laver Arena for a place in the Australian Open semi-finals.
The stage can’t get any bigger for 19-year-old Aussie Nick Kyrgios. And funnily enough, it’s just the way he likes it.
Both Kyrgios and his fellow teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis started the fortnight as the toast of Melbourne but of the pair of ‘Special Ks’, it is Kyrgios who has so far proven to be a bit more special.
While Kokkinakis appears to have the more complete game, it is Kyrgios’ confidence that has risen the most eyebrows and has lifted the Canberra-native to such heights so early in his career.
For someone who has already reached two grand slam quarter-finals, it’s staggering that Kyrgios has registered just one match victory on the regular ATP tour – compared to 12 at the majors.
While a player like Stan Wawrinka needed 23 slams before making his first quarter-final, Kyrgios now has two in his first seven.
His path to glory has skipped numerous steps, it’s like a couple getting married before going on their first date. His good friend,
ex-world No1 Victoria Azarenka finds the confidence he exudes at his age “refreshing” while Murray admits he was nowhere near as assured when he was 19.
“I didn’t feel like I was going to win these events when I was that age, but I read that he felt like he could win the Australian Open this year,” said the world No6.
But where does it come from, and how much of it stems from his love of showmanship?
Can Kyrgios win big matches if it’s not in front of thousands of fans he can show off in front of?
And can he continue to sustain his energy levels when he keeps on cursing on court, arguing with umpires, smashing racquets and talking to the crowd?
Halfway through his win over Seppi, Kyrgios looked up to three spectators leaving Hisense Arena and said: “Hey, where are you going?”
Why would they consider being anywhere other than on the Kyrgios bandwagon?
Just months into his explosion on the circuit, Kyrgios is already a polarising figure. Many are fascinated by his flair, torpedo of a serve and monster forehand while others are critical of his antics. People are forgetting that he is just 19, possibly because the last time a 19-year-old set the tour on fire was 10 years ago and his name was Rafael Nadal. The least appropriate thing Nadal ever did is picking his underwear before he serves.
It’s not helping that the other 19-year-old having a breakthrough tournament here in Melbourne is the calm, mature and lovable Madison Keys. Again, an unfair comparison to her keeps appearing on social media and other platforms.
Kyrgios is ultimately a unique character, breaking through in a unique way. He will learn from his own mistakes – which he’ll surely make many – and should eventually find the fine line between showtime and game time.
For now, we can relish the emergence of fresh young talent on the men’s tour and hope it translates into sustainable success.
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