Rod Laver wasn’t afraid of it have criticized Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios in the past – but the two-time calendar Grand Slam champion believes he’s seen something different over the past six months.
After years of teasing fans about his immense talent, Kyrgios brought it all together this year with a Exciting run to the Wimbledon finalas well as a convincing defeat of world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev at the US Open.
The Wimbledon final in particular was a massive breakthrough for Kyrgios, his first Grand Slam final, and Laver believes it is the first time in the 27-year-old’s career that he feels he truly belongs among the elite.
Laver memorably said in 2019 that Kyrgios “would never learn” how to get the best of himself on the pitch during a turbulent season punctuated by several controversies with chair umpires.
While Kyrgios has since become no less outspoken, Laver thinks there’s a certain level of confidence now never before seen in the Canberra-born star.
In conversation with the Daily TelegraphLaver said he believes the improvements Kyrgios has made in terms of his ability to maintain focus “was the best thing that happened to him”.
“Kyrgios has all the skills in the world, every shot you could ask for,” Laver said.
“He’s probably one of the biggest servers in the game. He’s accurate, he can play under pressure.
“I was thrilled when he reached the final but he didn’t think he could win Wimbledon. In my mind I said, ‘Hey, do your best. You can surprise yourself.’
“A month or two later I said, ‘You can win some of these games. Why don’t you apply, man?’”
Although Kyrgios missed out on earning ranking points for Wimbledon after the ATP stripped them of the tournament due to their ban on Russian players, his performance at the US Open was enough to propel him to world No. 20.
While Laver said he would have loved to see Kyrgios compete at the Laver Cup, he believes the conversation they had after the Wimbledon final had a profound impact on Kyrgios.
“He realized, ‘S***, I’m good enough, I can do this,'” Laver said.
“It was the biggest thing that happened to him. Unfortunately he said he wanted to go back to Australia and not play in the Laver Cup.
“But he knows he can play and compete now. Don’t walk out onto the pitch thinking, “If I get three games, that’s enough.”
“Now he’s thinking, ‘Next year? Wimbledon? You will see another player.’”
Nick Kyrgios angers Novak Djokovic fans over Laver Cup post
Although Laver believes Kyrgios will be a different player on the pitch, off the pitch there are no signs of Kyrgios giving up his outspoken style off the pitch.
During last week’s Laver Cup and the resulting spate of tributes for the retiring Roger Federer, Kyrgios couldn’t help but nudge the bear with his old sparring partner Novak Djokovic.
The 26-year-old Wimbledon finalist was among thousands of people around the world to pay tribute to Federer, who made his last professional appearance in doubles at the Laver Cup alongside long-time rival and friend Rafael Nadal.
“Novak knows his chance of slams is better now. Rafa is shaken,” Kyrgios posted, accompanying the touching image of Federer’s farewell with a tearful Nadal in the background.
Tennis fans were furious with Kyrgios’ comment, with many claiming it struck a disrespectful tone given the celebration of Federer’s achievements.
His comment was odd considering the Laver Cup farewell was Federer’s only tour appearance this year after struggling to recover from a long-term knee problem.
Federer’s famous 24-year career, during which he won 20 Grand Slam titles, ended in emotional scenes alongside Nadal at the Laver Cup, with Djokovic also once spotted tearing.
Kyrgios was knocked over the post for his ‘boldness’ which left some fans stunned.
“I can’t believe he has the audacity to say that!!! It was such an emotional night and he honestly thinks it’s appropriate what an idiot,” one fan wrote.
The Swiss legend couldn’t end his illustrious career with one final win he and Nadal suffered defeat in the hands of Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
Federer saw his ‘dream’ final ruined with a 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 11-9 loss to dampen fans’ spirits at the O2 Arena in London.
The 41-year-old broke down in tears as he hugged his European teammates, including longtime friend and rival Nadal.
However, there were stunning scenes as Nadal sat next to Federer and also burst into tears.
The Spanish champions seemed to feel the full weight of the emotional scenes as he cried into his hands as Federer bid farewell to the sport that has given him so much.
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