Nick Kyrgios appears to have come to grips with some of his demons on and off the court, and it could spell disaster for his rivals.
The fiery young Australian has always been a serious talent and a massive prospect, but has too frequently been dogged by a troubled temperament and a lack of focus and motivation.
It’s far too early to say that Kyrgios has wrestled all off these demons, but the 21-year-old is showing some very encouraging signs this season, and is proving a real thorn in the side of his fellow competitors.
On Wednesday at the Indian Wells Masters, Kyrgios came up against one of the world’s best players, Novak Djokovic, and dispatched him in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3).
Djokovic came into the match with an unbeaten Indian Wells streak dating back to 2013, but it counted for little on the day. He was thoroughly outplayed.
It was an impressive performance from the young pretender to the throne, but not all that unique, considering he did the same against the Serb just two weeks earlier.
In fact, Kyrgios has quietly amassed a pretty stellar record against top opposition. He has now won 80% of his matches against Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafel Nadal – a truly remarkable stat.
Kyrgios has now won 80% of his matches against Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. Not too shabby.
— Nick Nemeroff (@NNemeroff) March 16, 2017
There is no real secret to his success either. Kyrgios simply has one of the most fearsome serves in the business, but he’s also young, fast and mobile. His serve isn’t the only weapon in his arsenal, but it’s definitely his most reliable.
Even Djokovic – one of the best returners of all time – had no real answer for the some of 140mph bombs that were coming his way.
At one point, after yet another Kyrgios ace, Djokovic’s frustration totally boiled over and he received a code violation for his troubles:
Any player that can illicit this kind of reaction from a legend like Novak Djokovic has to be respected.
And what a change it made, to have a meltdown on the court in a match featuring Kyrgios, but to not have the Aussie be the guilty party.
After the defeat, Djokovic calmed down, and he was able to acknowledge how well his opponent had played.
“On his first serves, to try to anticipate and read his serve, where he’s going to go 140 miles per hour down the T and also pretty good angle wide, it’s hard to position yourself well… it is a gamble,” said the 12-time Grand Slam champion.
“[And] his second serve, if you think you’re going to have a look at it, you don’t, because he goes for it as well. He didn’t make too many double faults.”
If Kyrgios can continue to curb his combustible temper, and focus and channel all his energies into his impressive game instead, he has the potential to be a genuine world beater.
As long as he continues to be his own worst enemy, however, all that potential will surely go to waste.
It’s all up to Kyrgios himself.