If there is one thing Nick Kyrgios has never been lacking, it’s confidence in his game. Even during what he calls his “darkest times,” when he questioned even his very existence, he never lost his confidence, the knowledge that if he was on his guard, he could hold his own against the sport’s elite.
“I could lose five games in a row and I still think I have a chance to beat anyone,” the 27-year-old Canberran said last week in Montreal, where he defeated world No. 1 Daniel Medvedev for the third time in four ATP Head2Heads.
A realigned, reinvigorated Kyrgios finds himself back in Medvedev’s quarters at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, though a few obstacles stand in the way of a rematch. The Aussie will start with a first encounter with the Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Linder Family Tennis Center on Tuesday, and could later face off against the likes TaylorFritz or Andrei Rublev should he advance.
After an underwhelming 4-9 start in 2022, Davidovich Fokina turned his year around in April with a dream run to the first ATP Tour final of his career. It came onto the sacred sands of the Rolex Monte-Carlos Masters and saw the 22-year-old Andalusian stunning then-ranked players Novak Djokovic, David GofinFritz u Grigor Dimitrov when reaching the title match, where he finally lost to the defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas6-3, 7-6(3).
Despite a streak-snapping loss to Pole Hubert Hurkacz In the Montreal quarterfinals, Kyrgios put himself in a much more favorable position to advance to the final US Open, where he will now be among the seeds. Including his run to his first major final WimbledonKyrgios racked up nine straight wins, including the title match in Washington, winning 15 out of 17 matches to push his Pepperstone ATP ranking to No. 28.
Medvedev, the 2019 Cincinnati champion, will take on him Rafael Nadal this week for world No. 1 as Nadal has an opportunity to reclaim the position for the first time since January 2020. The 2013 champion could do it if he wins the title again and Medvedev doesn’t reach the quarterfinals. The result determines the top seed in Flushing Meadows.
First up for Medvedev is the debutant of the Western & Southern Open Botic van de Zandschulp, which has set a new career high 12 times in 2022, peaking at No. 24 in July. He defeated the Dutchman in the quarterfinals of the 2021 US Open, 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5, and later won his first major of his career. He prevailed again against van de Zandschulp in the third round of the 2022 Australian Open6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
“For sure [I] I want to try and win as many games as possible here to give that confidence to win games for them US Open‘ said Medvedev, who is starting his 13th week at the world No. 1, over Boris Becker on the all-time best list. “But we will take it game by game. As we see in the draw, I feel like the draw is very, very crowded. Sometimes there is someone retiring here and there, someone tired from the season and maybe not in the best shape here. When I look at the draw I’m like, ‘Wow, every match we have, even in the first round, it’s a tough match.’”
Tuesday’s line-up will also show: Fritz vs. Sebastian Bass, Jannik sinner vs Qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis, Carlo Alcaraz vs placeholder Mackenzie McDonaldand an all-American dispute between Thomas Paul and Jenson Brooksby.
Alcaraz is still getting used to his success. Seeded 2nd at last week’s National Bank Open in Montreal, he was edged out in the first round by Paul 6-7(4) 7-6(7) 6-3 and later confided that the pressure, the expectations got to him.
“It was the first time I felt that pressure and I couldn’t handle it,” said the 19-year-old Spaniard.
Seeded as the No. 3 in Cincinnati, he says he’s trying to “put the pressure in my favor” now. Already owning ATP Masters 1000 titles in Miami and Madrid this year, he could jump from 4th to 2nd in the Pepperstone ATP rankings should he win the title this week.