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Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios, the metamorphosis, before playing his first Grand Slam final against Novak Djokovic

He remained prostrate in his chair for long minutes after his victorious quarter-final. The head assailed by the thoughts and emotions of an epic in which he himself no longer believed. And yet, eight years after his first quarter at Wimbledon and his remarkable breakthrough at the highest level, Nick Kyrgios has reconnected with the thread of what his potential seemed to promise him: here he is for the first time in the final of a tournament of the Grand Slam, thanks to Rafael Nadal’s package. On the lawn of the All England Club of course, like a wink of fate.
The Australian is also the first unseeded to reach the final at Wimbledon since 2003 and one of his compatriots, Mark Philippoussis. Yet a follower of rowdy statements, demonstrations of self-confidence and detached postures (not to say I don’t care), Kyrgios did not hide his emotion this time. And for good reason, he himself thought he had let “the train pass”, wasted his chance to shine on the biggest stages.

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There was a time when I was almost done

I was just wondering how much things can change. There was a time when I was almost done with this sport. I posted about my depressive state in 2019, when I was hurting myself and having suicidal thoughts. And there, in this chair, after my victory… It’s a special accomplishment for everyone, but especially for me. If people had been asked if they thought I could do this for the past two years, they would surely all have said, ‘No. He doesn’t have the mental capacity or the physical capacity, he doesn’t have the discipline…’ I almost ended up doubting myself. There are so many people I want to thank… But at the same time, I don’t want to stop there either“, he revealed at a press conference.

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Nick Kyrgios has long hidden his dark thoughts and his suffering from being skinned alive behind the mask of insolence and a certain nihilism. So much so, he revealed, that in 2019, when he was about to challenge Rafael Nadal in the second round, his agent had to pick him up at 4 a.m. from a pub in the city. state that we imagine. It was then the strategy of avoidance in all its glory: in a way, he was putting himself in a situation that allowed him to better take the inevitable defeat with such “preparation”.

And the table did not really improve during the following two seasons. With 9 and 15 matches played on the ATP Tour respectively in 2020 and 2021, Kyrgios seemed to have made up his mind. The coronavirus pandemic and the interruption of competitions for five months had certainly not helped. But all this time spent at home in Canberra had led the Aussie to deeply question his relationship to tennis. By ending the last exercise with five defeats in a row, he had even considered that retirement was no longer a taboo subject.

A promising US tour in March before the grass in mission mode

At the beginning of the year, I didn’t even know if I really wanted to play, at least regularly. The last two seasons, I had lost the love of the game, the inner fire, the spark. But things changed in my life, and I rediscovered all that in a way, that a lot of people wanted me to play, and I played for them too. I feel like I still have a lot of energy and I’ve been playing my best tennis lately. Mentally, I feel fine. The road has been long. There were eight years between my first quarter-final here and this one“, he still retraced.

Long story short: Kyrgios found love and tennis followed. The American tour in March initiated this revival with a quarter-final in Indian Wells lost by nothing against Nada, him again. Then an eighth final in Miami where he had disgusted Andrey Rublev (6-3, 6-0) in 52 minutes. It was obvious: Kyrgios had rediscovered the pleasure of playing. But something was still stuck. As soon as an opponent resisted him a little bit (like Sinner in Florida for example), he showed extreme nervousness and left his game, receiving repeated penalty points for his behavior.

To solve this mental problem, in addition to a possible consultation, he really had to find the rhythm of the competition. Relish these stressful situations more frequently. After good training on grass in Australia, he has (finally) imposed a rich program with three preparation tournaments for Wimbledon. His irascibility certainly still played tricks on him, especially in the semi-final of Stuttgart against Andy Murray. But he chained the performances of choice, among others in Halle against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Pablo Carreno Busta. In all, he thus played 9 matches in two weeks and regained the taste for combat.

No more strategy of avoidance: ambitions finally assumed

His career at Wimbledon was just the logical consequence. Even in this 3rd electric round again against the Greek during which he sometimes exceeded the limits, Kyrgios did not self-eliminate this time. His much less volcanic attitude during the next two laps, despite fluctuating sensations, was perhaps even richer in lessons. No underhand serves or tweeners against Garin for example: he is no longer just there to put on a show.

I felt a little more pressure, definitely. I was in uncharted territory: trying to qualify for the semi-finals of a Grand Slam as a favorite. And I was so often on my heels that I couldn’t afford to play shots like that“, he confirmed.

So something happened at Kyrgios. Goodbye avoidance strategy, he somehow found the courage to ask himself the right questions. And if, for once, he put all the chances on his side, what would happen? If he took care of his physical preparation, set himself a mission, perhaps he would reap the rewards, despite years of wanderings and personal quests? Everyone goes at their own pace after all and some need more time than others to find their way. This Wimbledon 2022 seems to come at the right time for the Australian.

I just feel more mature. Earlier in my career, when I reached the 3rd round or a round of 16 in a Grand Slam, I was a lot on my phone, hanging out on the internet, or likely to go out to dinner or explore other things. I wouldn’t have stayed at home with my team, treated, eaten and rested well. I think in my team we all have the same goal, and that’s why it works. We all know what we came here to do. I let them know I wanted to go far enough and maybe even lift the trophy.”

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