It was about that time of the year. That time when Nick Kyrgios, the great enigma of men’s tennis, reminds us all of what he is capable of. It’s these sort of runs, which usually happen once or twice a season that keep him in the mainstream eye, doing just enough to stay relevant and ensure the limelight never leaves him for long.
Indeed, Kyrgios’ run to the Washington Open title last demonstrated the natural brilliance he possesses, but also underlined why so many hold so much against him. At 24 years old, he should be a contender near the top of the men’s game, maybe even the leading candidate to break The Big Three’s stranglehold on the sport. Instead, his brilliance, when it bubbles to the surface, is only fleeting.
Kyrgios is far from the model professional - he accepts that himself - and much of the criticism he has faced in recent years has been over the top. This is a young man who has quite clearly still to figure out his own mind. Being reminded of this at every turn is hardly going to help him become the tennis player, and the person, he is very obviously capable of being.
At the same time, Kyrgios must make a change soon or risk wasting his career. Time has already slipped through his fingers. He is essentially the same player he was when he broke through some five years ago. The strengths, namely his phenomenal groundstrokes and physicality, remain, but so do the weaknesses, which are almost all to do with the mental side of the game.
One can only hope that last week gave Kyrgios a taste for winning and the feeling that comes with it. “It’s been one of the best weeks of my life, from a tennis perspective,” the Australian said after beating Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final. “I feel like I’ve grown as a person and I’m getting better every day. This week means a lot. Obviously it’s great to get the win. But I’ve proved to myself and a lot of people who’ve backed me that I still have it and can still produce at the highest level.”
Conventionally, this run of form would lead some to tip any other player for US Open success (Kyrgios is +4500 to win at Flushing Meadows), with the final Grand Slam of the year on the horizon. But this is one of the biggest issues with Kyrgios - his track record suggests an inability to maintain any kind of consistency, backed up by his early exit to Kyle Edmund at the Rogers Cup on Tuesday night.
For instance, his win in Acapulco earlier this year, where he beat Rafael Nadal, John Isner and Alexander Zverev on his way to the title, was succeeded by a second round exit to Philipp Kohlscreiber at Indian Wells. After that, he suffered a controversy-packed Miami Open campaign which saw the Australian in an argument with a fan as he lost in the round of 16.
Despite the common rhetoric, there are still a lot of people who long for Kyrgios to finally fulfil his potential. Last week presented another new dawn for the Australian, but there’s little reason to believe it won’t be a false one as has been the case so many times before.