It’s fair to say that Nick Kyrgios isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. The Aussie is often caught up in controversies on and off the court, and his attitude is probably part of the reason that he is yet to live up to his true potential. Underneath that rugged, moody and temperamental exterior, which at times has even saw him be disqualified from competitions, is someone that can really play tennis.
The fact that Kyrgios is just one of a select few professionals to have beaten the ‘Big Three’ – Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic – in his first attempt at taking them on is proof that the talent is there. The Aussie’s Wimbledon debut in 2014, when he was just 19 years of age, is one that particularly springs to mind when you think about his career thus far. As a wildcard, he beat Nadal en route to the quarter-finals. However, his promising career has never really materialized since then.
He has reached just one more quarter-final since that brilliant Wimbledon debut, and that was in the 2015 Australian Open, whilst his career bests in the French Open and US Open is just the third round – rather disappointing when you think what could have been Kyrgios. If he really knuckled down, saying the 25-year-old could have won a Grand Slam by now wouldn’t be considered to be a ludicrous statement.
With yet another Grand Slam approaching, in the form of the Australian Open, it comes as no surprise to see Kyrgios’ name someway down the pecking order in the Australian Open odds. After all, he hasn’t progressed past the fourth round at Melbourne Park since 2015.
Alongside those poor performances, Kyrgios also hasn’t played tennis since last February’s Mexican Open. Like his compatriot and WTP World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, Kyrgios opted to not take part when last year’s tour resumed following its coronavirus enforced hiatus, citing health concerns surrounding the pandemic as his reason to sit out for the remainder of the year.
However, given that the 25-year-old has had a lengthy time away from the sport for the first time since his breakthrough as a teenager, there’s the possibility that a well-rested Kyrgios could prove a real threat at Melbourne Park. We know that he has the ability to beat anybody on the tour when at his best, and if he is mentally and physically ready for the challenge of the upcoming Grand Slam then he really could be a dangerous opponent.
His records against those at the top of the rankings prove that he can be a tough player to face. He has won both of his two outings against Djokovic, and whilst both of those victories came back in 2017 at Indian Wells and The Mexico Open, it is still evidence of his ability.
His record against Nadal also isn’t bad. In eight head-to-heads, Kyrgios has won three, with his most recent being in the round of 16 in 2019’s Mexico Open – which he actually went on to win, defeating then World No.3 and the competition’s No.2 seed Alexander Zverev in the final. That means he overcame the challenge of the top two seeds to win the tournament – not a bad feat.
With only a mere nine matches under his belt over the course of the last 12 months, it will be an exceptionally tough task for Kyrgios to win in Melbourne, but it would be good to see him get back up to speed and hopefully challenge more throughout the course of 2021.