2021 Wimbledon is the first tournament outside of Australia that Nick Kyrgios has competed at since the COVID-19 pandemic. The 26-year-old retired against Ugo Humbert (a guy who will pop up a few times in this article) back at Acapulco in February 2020, then disappeared off the Tour until the bubble-edition of the 2021 Australian Open. Kyrgios had a very good performance there, but couldn’t really do more with his draw as he defeated Humbert in five sets, only to lose to Dominic Thiem in the next round, also going the distance. Since then, he had been withdrawing from all ATP tournaments. Kyrgios has been vocal in criticizing COVID policies that he feels aren’t safe enough.
Nick Kyrgios Returns to Wimbledon
History in London
Wimbledon holds a special place in his heart, as it was the scene of his first major breakthrough. In June 2014, Kyrgios won the Nottingham Challenger, thereby securing a wild card for that year’s edition of the Championships. The young talent first saved nine match points to defeat then World No. 14 Richard Gasquet in the second round, only to top it with an even bigger scalp two matches later–World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Kyrgios’s run finished with a quarterfinal loss to Milos Raonic, but it seemed certain that the Australian would be back at that stage sooner than later.
And while he hasn’t really done that, his concentration was always at its peak for Wimbledon. In the list of the players who defeated him at SW19 since 2014, there’s hardly anyone to be ashamed of–Nadal, Gasquet, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori. The only outlier is the loss to Pierre-Hugues Herbert in 2017, but it came via retirement.
Coming back to the 2021 edition of the Championships, Kyrgios drew the recent Halle champion Humbert. Both players were definitely hoping for an easier matchup. You can never write off Kyrgios on the grass, especially at Wimbledon, while Humbert’s trophy run at Halle included wins over Andrey Rublev, Alexander Zverev, and Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Frenchman was a substantial favorite of this clash, especially taking into consideration that Kyrgios played his last professional match more than five and a half months before Wimbledon.
But if there’s any player whom we’d suspect could do this well after months of no proper training and with zero match practice, it would be Kyrgios. The Australian is not known for his work ethic, but for trick shots and the ability to motivate himself for the biggest matches. Some call him the most talented player in the world; some believe his “don’t care” attitude is merely an attempt to keep himself and the fans believing in the “if he really tried, he’d be the best” myth.
As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Kyrgios and Humbert were able to put on a great show, three hours and a half of ridiculous shotmaking. In the meantime, the Australian was able to debunk another myth concerning him, as he didn’t fade away physically despite going into the fifth set on the first day of play. Kicking off at 3-3 in the decider on Wednesday, Kyrgios was able to close it out 9-7 by performing extremely well in the pivotal moments of the match. Even serving it out, he had to dig himself out of a 15-40 hole. He did just that, not holding back and going for his shots under huge pressure.
In his post-match interview on the court, Kyrgios called himself a “part-time player” and credited the crowd and the atmosphere as one of the reasons he had for coming to London. He also admitted to having felt a lot of pain in the morning after the first day of the match, possibly because of the long hiatus he’s had. In true Kyrgios fashion, he announced that his plans for the evening are to “play Call of Duty with his girlfriend and chill out.”
Maintaining concentration for multiple matches
The fact that the 26-year-old can be one of the best tennis players on the planet in an individual match comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed his journey over the past seven years. But the real challenge for someone with his mindset is to keep up that level over several rounds. Especially considering that after over five months off the court, he won’t get a day of rest before his second-round clash. Most of his Wimbledon early losses came to other greats, but it’s not an accident that Kyrgios hasn’t made a Grand Slam quarterfinal since the 2015 Australian Open, over six years ago.
The draw is pretty kind to him though, bringing around clay-court specialist Gianluca Mager in the second round. The matchup could be even tenser if the Italian saw this reply to a tweet by Kyrgios, implying that he didn’t deserve his World No. 77 ranking at the time because he had barely any wins on hard and grass. The Australian will be favored to get through that clash and could face another in-form competitor from the past few weeks, Felix Auger-Aliassime, in a blockbuster third-round matchup.
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