Unpredictable Nick Kyrgios has wasted his talent for years, but his latest win shows he's finally coming of age
- Nick Kyrgios is finally coming of age.
- Kyrgios has often frustrated fans through lack of effort or care in either his preparation or play.
- But, at 24, he appears to be maturing - and has won two ATP 500 events in 2019 alone.
- Kyrgios has enjoyed solid success this year, but the best may well be yet to come.
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Nick Kyrgios has long wasted his talent, but now, he's finally coming of age.
Kyrgios won the Citi Open, an ATP 500 event in Washington, having beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas two sets to one in the semifinal Saturday, before outlasting Daniil Medvedev 7-6, 7-6 in Sunday's final.
It is the Australian's second trophy of the year after he won the 2019 Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Apaculpo in March. He has five wins against one loss in matches against the world's top 10 male players in 2019, and will now be seeded in the US Open, the final Grand Slam event of the year.
The older Kyrgios gets, the better he plays - but theatrics have long gotten in his way.
Headlines from this year alone are typical of his career to date, as he mercilessly trolled "cringeworthy" Novak Djokovic and "salty" Rafael Nadal in a no-holds-barred interview in May, blamed poor performance in a June tournament on playing video games until 3 a.m., and was seen "chatting to girls" and drinking at a Wimbledon pub the night before his grudge match against Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Championships.
The bad has often overshadowed the good, but the player is nothing short of magnificent when he tries. His service game is powerful, his trick shots can be spectacular, and he can dominate many top tier opponents at will.
In the past, he has often failed to sustain his extraordinary skillset through an entire tournament, however.
At the 2019 Italian Open, for instance, he swept aside the challenge from rising men's star Medvedev on the Tuesday, but threw his chair onto the court, packed his bag, and walked off in the middle of the match on the Thursday.
For so long, it has seemed impossible to know what to expect from Kyrgios - and the truth, perhaps, is that he didn't even know what to expect from himself.
But Kyrgios kept his composure through the entire Citi Open competition, beating another rising men's star Tsitsipas, before doing the same, once again, to Medvedev.
He even overcame what appeared to be grueling back pain in the final, often seeing lying on the floor, stretching.
Because of the injury, Kyrgios struggled to win returning points against Medvedev's serve, so the only real route to success available to him was to keep his composure if tie break opportunities presented themselves to him - which they did, and which he took, and won.
Kyrgios, whether purists like it or not, is a box office player. Fans are on the edge of their seat at arenas he competes in, and social media is abuzz when he plays.
He has now competed in two of the most anticipated men's matches of the year - the second round loss to Nadal at Wimbledon, and the semifinal edging of Tsitsipas in Washington.
The fact he has won two titles this year, after winning a trophy in Mexico with victories over Rafael Nadal, John Isner, and Alexander Zverev, suggests he may well be maturing as an athlete before our very eyes, aged 24.
It has been easy to look at Tsitipas, Medvedev, Zverev, or maybe Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime as a generation of players who could one day be capable of emerging from the shadows cast by the sport's big three - Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Nadal - becoming Grand Slam winners in their own right.
But this has done a disservice to Kyrgios, who is more talented than all of them, and seemingly raises his game when he is in a match against the world's best players, injury or not.
If he can continue to be consistent from the first round to the final in upcoming competitions, he will be a threat to everyone in world tennis - big three included.
Kyrgios has enjoyed solid success this year, but the best may well be yet to come.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).