Kyrgios still on board for a run in mixed (photos)

MELBOURNE, Australia – Less than 24 hours after a tough scrap against Rafael Nadal eliminated him from the men’s singles in the fourth round, Nick Kyrgios was back.

He sort of winked when he said, “My focus shifts to mixed now,” during his post-match conference Monday night. But he was still keen.

“Yeah, I mean, I just want to go out there and have fun. I’m still in the tournament. I’m not going to take it for granted, another day at the Australian Open,” he said.

Kyrgios and mixed doubles partner Amanda Anisimova warmed up on the furthest court on the Rod Laver side of the complex, No. 15.

They drew a nice but very manageable crowd.

It was as low-key as the Aussie himself was as he went through the paces.

But he’s all in.

After Anisimova wrapped up and left the court, Kyrgios stayed behind to hit a few more serves and maybe loosen up the shoulder a bit.

Here’s what it looked like.

The scene offered up a few examples of how funny fans can be. 

You snooze, fellas, you lose

Two young guys on the opposite side of the court from Kyrgios’s chair (they were to the left of the two Kobe Bryant jerseys) were talking about how this was the moment of their lives, to be this close to Kyrgios.

And yet, they wouldn’t go around to the other side where Kyrgios was signing a lot of autographs and doing selfies (and it wasn’t as though the fans were three deep – not even close).

“Too many people,” they said.

They stayed put, because … maybe Kyrgios would sign as he was being hustled out on their side by the security people.

Which didn’t happen. Because most of the time life doesn’t just come to you on a platter; you have to go after it.

Meanwhile, one woman who was there with her grandson reached out as Kyrgios walked by, patted him on the shoulder and told him, “We LOVE you, Nick !!!!!”

“I appreciate that,” was the response from Kyrgios.

Grannies can get away with that sort of thing. 

Forward Granny: “I TOUCHED HIM!!!!!”

Your Tennis.Life correspondent’s question: “Was he sweaty?”

Suspended suspension for Nick Kyrgios

On the day Nick Kyrgios pulled out of the remainder of the ATP Tour Asian swing because of a collarbone injury, the tour finally handed down its decision concerning the embattled Aussie’s behaviour at the Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati last month.

They suspended him – but maybe they didn’t.

What the ATP Tour has done, once again, is hang a suspension sword of Damocles over the 24-year-old Aussie’s head, in the hope that he behaves appropriately over the next six months.

The verdict is that Kyrgios was found to have committed “Aggravated Behavior under the Player Major Offense provision in the ATP Code”.

The investigated was conducted by executive vice-president of rules and competition Gayle Bradshaw.

It is the “pattern of behaviour” clause that has led Bradshaw to assess a fine of $25,000 (peanuts compared to the $113,000 Kyrgios was fined in Cincinnati), a suspension the duration of which is 16 weeks – 16 tournament weeks, not calendar weeks – and a six-month probation period.

That period begins on the Monday following “acceptance” of the punishment, which means, “if Kyrgios chooses not to appeal”. 

Kyrgios

Good behaviour will wipe out sanctions

If the 16-week suspension and fine sound serious, they will be reduced to … zero if Kyrgios is a good boy during those six months.

Should Kyrgios earn “no further code violations” during that period, he’s off the hook.

Here’s what he can’t do. As you can see, that first one might be a deal-breaker unless a radical change takes place.

– No Verbal or Physical Abuse of officials, spectators or any other persons while on-court or on-site

–No Unsportsmanlike Conduct based upon an act, such as spitting, directed towards an official, spectator or other person during or upon conclusion of the match.

Another condition is “continued support from a mental coach while competing at ATP Tour events.” That implies something most people probably weren’t aware of, which is that Kyrgios already was getting that support.

Kyrgios also must seek “additional support during the off-season (Nov-Dec) from a professional specializing in behavioral management.”

Kyrgios has five days to launch an appeal. If he does not, that six-month probation kicks in the Monday following. If he commits no further violations, it will be lifted.

Abuse of umpire Murphy in Cincinnati

Kyrgios, who is one of the quickest players between points on Tour, lost his cool with chair umpire Fergus Murphy over the anodyne matter of when the shot clock was started. 

Typically that’s a sign of Kyrgios feeling a physical issue or other. At that point, he has the unfortunate tendency to sabotage himself.

After losing the second set in a tiebreak to Karen Khachanov, and facing a third, he went off for a toilet break. Despite reports that it was against Murphy’s wishes, the truth was that he asked, twice, but Murphy was busy giving a ballkid some instructions and appeared to not hear him in the noisy stadium.

Really, though, it appeared a ruse to go off the court and smash a couple of rackets.

Cameras caught the action behind a door. And viewers on television or a stream saw it, where Murphy did not.

After hurling various insults Murphy’s way – and not for the first time this summer – he refused to shake his hand when Khachanov won the third set. Among other things, Kyrgios called Murphy a “tool”.

The fine assessed was heavy – three times what Kyrgios earned at the tournament.

Comments concerning the ATP dismissed

The ATP also investigated the comments Kyrgios made towards its organization during the US Open after his first-round victory over American Steve Johnson. Kyrgios had been asked in press about a potential suspension in the wake of his actions in Cincinnati.

“The ATP is pretty corrupt anyway. I’m not fussed about it at all. I was fined ($113,000) for what? Why are we talking about something that happened three weeks ago when I just chopped up someone first round of a US Open? Have you ever sworn at someone before? You’re not an elite athlete … I’m just saying people get frustrated. It happens,” he said.

After the ATP announced it would open an investigation concerning those comments, Kyrgios issued a statement on Twitter.

It determined those did not fall under the category of “Player Major Offense”. So he’s off the hook for that.

Not his first late-season suspension

Three years ago, right around this time of the year, Kyrgios was suspended for eight tournament weeks. The suspension was handed down after a 6-3, 6-1 loss to Mischa Zverev in the second round of the Shanghai Masters 1000. The Aussie was judged, among other offenses, not to have given his best effort.

That suspension was cut in half after Kyrgios agreed to work with a sports psychologist. 

The following year – again in Shanghai – Kyrgios retired after losing the first set of his first-round match against Steve Johnson. He had just reached the final in Beijing a few days before.

The Aussie said he had been under the weather. As well, he said his shoulder had been bothering him in practice. He was fined his prize money because he couldn’t provide evidence of illness or injury.

What probably hurt him more was that he was overheard saying that if he lost the first-set tiebreak against Johnson, he could quit. 

Kyrgios went to Antwerp the following week. He lost his first match, and ended his season.

Last year – again in Shanghai, Kyrgios lost to American Bradley Klahn in the first round. And he had issues with chair umpire Damien Dumusois.

Late-season blues for Kyrgios

It’s pretty easy to do the math, and listen to Kyrgios’s comments, and realize that by this point of the season, he’s tired of being on the road and pretty homesick.

He mentioned last week that he’d been away from home for seven straight months.

Kyrgios has scuttled Beijing and Shanghai, citing the collarbone injury that forced him out of the deciding day of Laver Cup.

He did fly to Zhuhai, mostly to fulfil the doubles commitment with his mate Matt Reid. He lost his first-round match in singles to Andreas Seppi in three sets. And the drop of velocity on his service was evident.

It probably was a smart move given his history at the tournament and the fact that he has no room to maneuver on the behavioral side. He announced this on Twitter before the suspension was handed down.

Kyrgios remains entered in the Vienna 500 event the week of Oct. 21, and the Paris Masters 1000 tournament the week after that.

China … wait for us. We’re coming!

The fall Asian swing on the ATP Tour begins this week.

But the $1 million-plus events in Chengdu and Zhuhai (relocated from Shenzhen) have pretty slim orders of play on Monday.

There are only three singles matches on the schedule in Chengdu.

Luckily these are 28-player draws. Because the tournaments are waiting for … a lot of people.

To start with, the Laver Cup scooped up a bunch of players who were scheduled to play this week.

And if any of you missed it, it was a pretty emotional and draining experience for just about all involved.

The time difference between Geneva and Metz, and the two Chinese cities is six hours. From St. Petersburg, Russia, it’s five hours.

From Geneva to Chengdu

Four of Team World’s squad in Geneva now have to get to China, get over jet lag, get back to everyday life and try to earn some ranking points.

No. 1 seed John Isner (who played doubles and then singles on Sunday in Geneva and was clearly on fumes). He has a first-round bye.

No. 6 seed Taylor Fritz, who is in singles (and doubles with Nicholas Monroe).

No. 8 seed Denis Shapovalov didn’t see much action on the weekend in Geneva (in part of because of the rules). But he still has to get to China.

Team World alternate Jordan Thompson also has to come from Geneva. He’s also entered in doubles with Shapovalov.

They might have been waiting for No. 2 seed Félix Auger-Aliassime, too, as we’re told he was asked to play Laver Cup. But the Canadian turned it down.

No. 3 seed Benoit Paire said after losing in the Metz singles semifinals that he was sick, on antibiotics, and might not make it.  He has a first-round bye, though, and is still officially in the draw from what we can see. He’s also entered in doubles with Alexander Bublik.

Egor Gerasimov of Belarus made the semifinals in St. Petersburg out of the qualifying. He’s in as a special exempt in Chengdu.

From … everywhere to Zhuhai

No. 1 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will come from Geneva. 

No. 2 seed Roberto Bautista Agut was an alternate for Team Europe in Geneva.

No. 4 seed Borna Coric played the final in St. Petersburg Sunday, losing to Daniil Medvedev.

Lucas Pouille, seeded No. 5, reached the semis in Metz, France and has to get there.

No. 6 seed Nick Kyrgios had to pull out of the final day of Laver Cup – and a clash against Rafael Nadal – because of a shoulder problem. He’s also supposed to play doubles with Matt Reid.

You’d have to think he’s doubtful. If he passes, Canadian Brayden Schnur is first up as a lucky loser.

No. 4 doubles seeds Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen made the semis in Metz.

Divij Sharan won the doubles title in St. Petersburg with Igor Zelenay. He’s playing with Artem Sitak in Zhuhai.

Even private takes forever

What arrangements the Laver Cup made with the players to get to Asia after the weekend is unknown (no doubt we’ll see some Tweets).

But even flying private, there’s not a huge time savings.

Here are the quickest routes from Geneva (notably, for mere mortals, it costs twice as much to fly to Zhuhai as it does to fly to Chengdu).

"Geneva

"Geneva

Post-match “fun” with Nick Kyrgios

There were a lot of objectionable things from Nick Kyrgios during his three-set loss to Karen Khachanov Wednesday.

Which was (rinse, repeat), a shame because he displayed some of his brand of genius tennis too, at least at first.

A long-running rant that lasted several changeovers about a time violation.

Umpire Fergus Murphy giving him some ammunition by trying to posit that slowpoke Rafael Nadal gets the same strictness on the 25-second rule.

Some profanity towards Murphy after the second set – enunciated slowly, clearly and loudly as he knew the TV camera was right on him. Which resulted in a code violation and a point penalty applied at the beginning of the third set.

After some time, a request to go to the bathroom. The only purpose for this was to smack a couple of rackets against the wall (send the wall-repair bill to agent John Morris).

When Kyrgios emerged with them, Murphy had to crowdsource some advice. Because the canny Kyrgios, of course, didn’t smash the rackets on court. (He’ll likely find out soon that location doesn’t matter much in these cases).

Fast forward to the finale

The cameras didn’t leave Kyrgios during the post–match. And (we say sarcastically), he didn’t disappoint.

1): Hugging it out with Khachanov to make sure he knew it wasn’t personal.

Kyrgios

2): Calling Murphy a “f…ng tool” and spitting in his general direction.

Kyrgios

That’s going to cost him a lot of dough. Or should.

3): Did we notice Kyrgios was wearing two different shoes?

Kyrgios

4): Don’t know if the fans did, but they were begging for a stinky shoe (even some adults).

Kyrgios

5) Kyrgios obliges.

Kyrgios

6): And then – to be fair – he fires the other one to the fans on the other side of the court.

Kyrgios

7): Which makes this kid feel gypped. I mean, he begged THE MOST!

Kyrgios

8) Some autographs signed on the way out.

Kyrgios

At the start of the third set, when he was one false move away from being defaulted (and Kyrgios clearly was over the line where he was almost goading Murphy into doing it), he tried to convince the Irish umpire that a time violation was bogus.

Why? Because even though he had to re-grip a racket after smashing the two in the locker room, he claimed he was in the “returning position” for Khachanov to serve.

Auger-Aliassime respects Kyrgios the player. The person? Not his cup of tea

If he had to hit the return with the handle (we’ve seen him do this plenty), or with the grip hanging down, or whatever, no big deal.

Technically, perhaps yes. Hypothetically? Not really. Whatever else happened Thursday, Kyrgios did get a few points on some imaginary scoreboard for … creativity?

Another show, another expensive night for the Aussie.

(All screenshots from TennisTV which, as it happens, put through their high-priced annual streaming service renewal while all this was happening. It was like they KNEW!)

Kyrgios loses his … stuff in Rome

Kyrgios, Bouchard add star quality to Kids’ Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The thing about Kids’ Day events at tournaments is that the bring out the very best in the pro players who take part.

And Nick Kyrgios and Genie Bouchard were no exception Sunday morning at the Citi Open.

Kyrgios’s face completely changes when he’s around the kids.

It’s a mutual admiration society, on that level.

He knows they don’t judge him.

And the kids feel like he treats them like actual people, not mini-versions.

The event announcer kept saying they had to pack things up so they could prepare the court for the qualifying matches to come. But Kyrgios kept on going.

On the other side of the court, Bouchard looked to be enjoying herself as much as the little ones were.

Frances Tiafoe and Sofia Kenin also took part, a little earlier in the morning.

Then Kenin and Bouchard (wearing that same outfit), who are playing doubles together this week, hit the practice court.

kids
Bouchard (and Jorge Todero) and Sofia Kenin (and father/coach Alex) hit the practice court Sunday at the Citi Open. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Auger-Aliassime respects Kyrgios the player. The person? Not his cup of tea

LONDON – Félix Auger-Aliassime had a pretty full day Thursday, when he finally made his Queen’s Club debut.

A first-round match against 2014 champion Grigor Dimitrov wasn’t simple, but he got through in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

And then, he faced Nick Kyrgios, who had defeated lucky loser Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain in his own delayed first-round match.

The first meeting between the 24-year-old Aussie and the 18-year-old Canadian pretty much had everything – and then some, as we’ll show in a photo essay later.

But most of all, it featured a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 7-5 win by Auger-Aliassime.

The Canadian will will play No. 1 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Kyrgios hurt his hip/adductor area after a spill on the second point of the third set. But if he’d played lights out until then, the final set was mostly a matter of Kyrgios trying to hold serve, slapping at a few on Auger-Aliassime’s service games, and hoping for a tiebreaker.

In the end, the Canadian was able to break him for the first time in the final game.

After which, Kyrgios decided to chuck his racket – right over the few rows of stands and out onto a concourse.

Few were impressed. Auger-Aliassime can be included amongst that group.

Here he is talking about what a complicated match it is against Kyrgios and how while he respects the player, he’s not a huge fan of the man.

(The interview, conducted in French for RDS, is on the RDS website – we’ve subtitled it here).

Generally, the players have a “boys will be boys” attitude about Kyrgios’s antics. Many of them like him off the court, and as we know, men tend to be somewhat more forgiving of other men’s flaws.

It’s impressive that Auger-Aliassime, at his age, has such a strong sense of himself. And of what he thinks is right and wrong, what’s acceptable and what isn’t.  And that he’s not afraid to speak on it.

A pictorial: FAA v NK

LONDON – There was a bit of everything in the astonishing match between Félix Auger-Aliassime and Nick Kyrgios Thursday.

There even was Kyrgios doing fake free-throws the length of the court with tennis balls. They arrived at the ball girls on one bounce. 

His aim couldn’t have been better if he’d run over and placed the ball tehre.

And for a couple of sets, the Aussie was all in. He was playing great tennis and giving Auger-Aliassime no rhythm as the Canadian teenager just tried to hang in there.

It turned on the second point of the third set, when Kyrgios had a bad slip and fall.

It appeared (at least from the rather intimate-looking massages he got on back-to-back changeovers), to be his adductor.

After that, Kyrgios basically as playing for a breaker. His serve velocity was way down, but he didn’t put up much of a fight in Auger-Aliassime’s service games.

Here are some of the highlights.

All along, Kyrgios was chuntering. A courtside experience for a Kyrgios match is exponentially better than listening to television commentary.

“I can’t split-step right now. I could barely return his serve before. And now, what hope do I have?” – Kyrgios, to himself.

He wasn’t happy with the line calls, although he had a better sense of humor about it Thursday than he did during his first-round match.

Kyrgios to Keothavong: “What that the latest call you’ve ever heard?”
Keothavong: “It was a late one, yes.”

Intimate court, near the action

The fans in the corner to the umpire’s left, on the deuce side, had to scatter often when the two players served wide (you might well have caught your Tennis.Life correspondent on the streams as a few of them went in my direction, too).

At one point – 4-4 in the third set – a woman got hit with one .

It was on the bounce – of course. She was a little rattled. And so she threw the ball back onto the court before Kyrgios’s second serve.

“Smart. Very smart,” said Kyrgios, who didn’t think it was too smart.
“I’m SORRY!” replied the woman, who wasn’t that sorry.

There were some special guests to watch this one.

A sleepy-looking Tommy Paul (either he’d just had a nap, or he needed one. But he did have a Tootsie Roll supply). Frances Tiafoe, a good friend of Kyrgios’s, was there with his girlfriend Ayan Broomfield (who plays tennis at UCLA and, as it happens, is Canadian).

Thanasi Kokkinakis also arrived.

Racket toss could have been dangerous

In the end, the racket that Kyrgios tossed up after the loss didn’t appear as though it was going to fly too far – and then, suddenly, it flew right over the stands and onto a concourse.

We went out there to interview witnesses, as it were. And the stewards were saying they were pretty shocked to look up and see a racket flying through the air.

They thought it might have come from the stadium court behind them. Luckily, no one was hit by it. But the stewards pointed out that had it been 20 minutes earlier, that concourse was absolutely packed with people.

The tournament supervisor and tournament director were out investigating after that Nick Kyrgios racket went flying out of Court 1. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

At this point, of course, everyone who had a ticket was crammed into the stadium court to watch Andy Murray’s return to competitive tennis.

For the first time, FAA and Kyrgios meet

LONDON – They had to get through their first-round matches first – the only players who hadn’t at least started them as Thursday dawned.

But Félix Auger-Aliassime defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-4.

A few minutes earlier, on an adjacent court, Nick Kyrgios took care of lucky loser Roberto Carballes Baena 7-6 (4), 6-3.

There was, as you might imagine, considerably more drama on Kyrgios’s court, as supervisor Ali Nili had to come out after a disputed line call.

And a few … pleasantries were exchanged with chair umpire Fergus Murphy.

But both got it done.

And late in the afternoon in London, these two charismatic, interesting players will meet for the first time in their careers.

Kyrgios, currently ranked No. 39, turned 24 in April.

Auger-Aliassime, currently at a career-high No. 21, doesn’t turn 19 until August.

From fave to opponent

When we did a pre-tournament interview with Auger-Aliassime in the players’ lounge Monday, Kyrgios had just come back from a press conference of his own – in high spirits, playing ping pong (as he’s wont to do).

He’s a different fellow down there, away from the cameras and off the court.

Auger-Aliassime just sort of looked at him, bemused. The Canadian is about as polar opposite as you can get to the fiery Aussie.

His work ethic is already legendary amongst his peers. Every opponent he plays basically says what an amazing guy he is. He is, as they say, a seeeeerious kid with an impeccable reputation already.

Kyrgios is also popular in the locker room. But it’s a different kind of thing – a bit of a guy thing, if you will. It’s like, “Yeah, not a huge fan of some of the things he does on the court, but he’s a great guy.”

Let’s put it this way: you know Auger-Aliassime got a good night’s sleep.

Kyrgios, with potentially two matches to play, was up until 3 a.m. playing FIFA.

Kyrgios the pied piper

Kyrgios

Wherever we see Kyrgios play, it seems that there is always a big gang of teenaged boys and young adults rapt with attention at everything he does.

During his match against Carballes Baena Thursday, the grounds crew on the next court all stood there and watched him for quite a while.

And … let’s flash back nearly four years, to the 2015 Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Kyrgios
Four summers ago, 15-year-old Auger-Aliassime and his friend Nicaise Muamba were cracking up at Nick Kyrgios’s antics on the practice court in Montreal. Thursday, they meet for the first time. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Kyrgios had just turned 20. And was ranked almost exactly where he is now, at No. 38. 

He and his pal Jack Sock (who has been out since the Australian Open with a hand injury) practiced together and entertained the crowd.

Among that crowd were some kids from Tennis Canada’s national training centre. And among those kids was … Auger-Aliassime, who had turned 15 just a few days before.

Take a look. It’s a crazy time warp.

Flash forward four years, and it is the kid who is the seeded player at Queen’s Club on the grass – and the on-paper favorite in this match.

Life happens quickly, huh?

Meanwhile, it seems Kyrgios, who was on Court 2 for much of the time Auger-Aliassime was playing on Court 1 earlier today, decided to do some advance scouting during his match.

Kyrgios hits the doubles court (pics)

MELBOURNE, Australia – A tough draw eliminated Aussie Nick Kyrgios from the Australian Open men’s singles in the first round.

But on Wednesday, he was back on the practice court and back on the match court in doubles, with his friend Matt Reid.

The two had an equally tough draw there. They faced the No. 13 seeds, Ivan Dodig and Édouard Roger-Vasselin.

There’s a hole when a popular Aussie is eliminated from the tournament. Even with Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams playing, an Aussie in action here always creates extra buzz.

That’s evidenced by the early TV ratings for Canadian Milos Raonic’s win over Kyrgios on Melbourne Arena Wednesday night.

According to new Australian Open official broadcaster Channel 9, Kyrgios-Raonic crushed it.

(“9GEM” is a subsidiary channel, although it’s available free-to-air, while Kyrgios’s match was shown on the main channel, 9).

Kyrgios knee ongoing

Kyrgios had some simple black tape on his right knee for the doubles warmup.

For the match, he ended up with the more comprehensive effort he had in the latter stages of his singles match against Raonic.

From being the center of attention on Melbourne Arena Tuesday night, Kyrgios was just meters away from that big venue Wednesday. But he was on arguably the most modest practice court there is, No. 23.

The pair was sharing the court, too, with Americans Ryan Harrison and Sam Querrey.

Short-term vision

After the loss to Raonic, Kyrgios wasn’t looking any further than the doubles.

“I’m still in the tournament. I got doubles tomorrow. All my focus goes in there. I’m going to come out there, just bluff my way through a doubles match, see how it goes. Obviously playing with one of my best mates again, which is pretty special. I know this means a lot to him, being part of the Australian Open, playing doubles,” Kyrgios said. “That’s all I’m focusing on. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet honestly. Obviously I’d like to play well.”

Reid, ranked No. 115 in doubles, acquitted himself beautifully. Kyrgios was up and down. When he missed a sitter volley (his third of the point, with his nose practically over the net) in the middle of the second-set tiebreaker, he said to Reid, “That was the worst miss of my career. LITERALLY the worst miss of my career.”

Which was pretty funny. Except the scoreboard wasn’t so funny.

The Aussie pair went down 6-2, 7-6 (2). And so his Australian Open is done.

Davis Cup? Only Lleyton knows

Kyrgios said he was available for Davis Cup. But he didn’t think he’d be selected for Australia’s qualifying-round match against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Feb. 1-2 in Adelaide.

“I don’t think I’d be picked. There’s a lot of good players right now. Obviously De Minaur, Millman, they’re all playing great. There’s a lot of depth, which is pretty good for us,” Kyrgios said.

The Aussie dropped out of the top 50 after failing to defend his 2018 Brisbane title (he lost in the second round). And with a fourth-round effort from 2018 coming off the computer, he could be out of the top 70 depending on what some other players still in the draw do.

The Aussie didn’t play a Tour event between the Australian Open and Miami last year. So there’s an opportunity to make up a little ground. Kyrgios’s ranking hasn’t been this low since he was ranked No. 144 just before Wimbledon in 2014.

He is entered in Rotterdam the week of Feb. 11, and Acapulco two weeks later.

Kyrgios out to his idol, not without high points

NEW YORK – Nick Kyrgios is never going to be what people want him to be – out of obstinacy, if nothing else.

He may “settle down” and maximize his significant gifts some day.

He may not. And he won’t do it because you’re outraged that he doesn’t.

The day-in, day-out grind of piling up match wins in 250s and 500s against players who work harder than he does – but don’t have half his ability – and spending hours in the gym may never not bore him.

He may want more than anyone to get up for big, marquee matchups in the biggest stadiums, like his third-round clash with Roger Federer Saturday at the US Open.

And he may well beat himself up more than anyone who criticizes him, when he can’t summon up enough magic to prevail.

Kyrgios knows when he falls short. The fellow who tries to pretend he doesn’t care when things don’t go right, who flat out gives up sometimes, wants to care. He just hasn’t figured out how to yet.

He’s not patient enough to will himself to hang in there when things are looking grim, hopeful his fortunes will improve. He is, at heart, a pessimist and not an optimist.

On Saturday, Kyrgios met the maestro, his idol. And he fell short. Federer defeated him 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 in a match that turned on a game at 3-3 in the first set.

Kyrgios had four break points in that game, which took more than six minutes after these two speed demons took just 15 minutes to play the first five. He couldn’t make the magic happen.

Federer won the first set, rolled through the second set, and survived the third.

“Pressure. You know, got to the business end of the first set, crucial moment. Played a terrible service game. Didn’t make any first serves. Just it was tough. I knew how important that first set was,” Kyrgios said. 

“He loosened up straightaway after that. He started playing some shots that we all know, you know, he can make. All the pressure was off him. He’s an unbelievable frontrunner. When he gets in front, there’s not much you can do.”

Jaw-dropping shot

The highlight of the match, and perhaps the tournament, was a wraparound shot by Federer midway through the third set.

The 37-year-old sprinted from the baseline, and took advantage of the singles net on Arthur Ashe to drill a flat forehand around the outside of the court perimeter for a winner.

It was a showtime shot by his idol that Kyrgios appreciated to the fullest.

But the difference was this: Kyrgios tried to make eye contact with Federer, tried to draw him into the showtime. But the man with 20 major titles is a wise old goat, and he didn’t bite. Even if, underneath that smooth champion’s veneer, he wouldn’t hate being the showtime guy once in awhile.

“Other guys play the shot you’re supposed to hit, and then if you get beat, you’re, like, ‘Maybe I should have hit Nick’s shot.’ Nick goes the other way around,” Federer said. “He hits that shot, but then if he doesn’t win that point, maybe he tells himself, ‘Well, maybe I should have hit a normal shot.’ It just goes the other way around. And he’s very good at doing these shots, too.”

With John Millman looming in the fourth round and a clear path to a potential showdown with Novak Djokovic in the quarters, Federer was all business.

“I definitely think it was a special one, no doubt about it. … And then there was one more in Dubai against Agassi on break point. I was able to flick a ball. I still don’t know how I did it today,” Federer said of the shot against Agassi. “It went for a lob over him. I don’t know. It was just a massive point on top of it, and it was against Andre.”

(Federer was 23 in that match against Agassi, the same age Kyrgios is now. Agassi, stone-faced after that bit of magic, would turn 35 a couple of months later).

Afterwards, some self-awareness

Kyrgios

Putting aside the major blip involving his mid-match ennui against Pierre-Hugues Hebert, Kyrgios has been professional in so many ways during this Slam. 

He’s done all the sponsors’ things he needs to do on social media. Where he was Mr. Two-Word-and-a-smirk” guy in press in Toronto, he was impressive in his press conferences here. 

His respect for the greats in the game is this little opening into who he is. The kid who aspired, who has mad respect for those who do everything right, wants to be that – on some level. But he knows he can’t do it their way. It’s a tug-of-war between good and evil. Sometimes, evil prevails. 

He knows it. You don’t have to inform him.

“(I) was actually as comfortable as as I felt on Ashe before. Especially in the first set I thought I was playing well. Yeah, I mean, he’s played on that court hundreds of times. He’s much more experienced. It didn’t come down to that today. He was way too good,” Kyrgios said.

“Obviously not at my best, but that’s how he makes you play. He makes the court feel really small at times. If you’re not serving well, he takes advantage of it. He was too good.”

What is the Kyrgios career goal?

Some players will say they want to win a Grand Slam, or be top 10 – or No. 1. They’ve probably been saying that since they were kids. Now that they’re out there, they’re still saying it and dreaming of it and working towards it.

This Aussie hasn’t yet figured out what he wants from his career. He only knows that whatever it is, he doesn’t have it yet. Not having a goal, an end game, makes it exponentially harder to plot your course.

If you don’t know what you’re working towards, how can you even take the right path?

“I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied with my career; I think there is a lot more to be done and there is a lot more to be … explored. … But I have been around for about four years now. And I have barely done anything. I think I can do a lot more. As I said, it’s all mental with me, I think. If I want it enough, you know, I have a coaching option, psychology option,” he said. 

“I think there is a lot more things to explore. But, I mean, obviously I want to achieve more in the sport. I don’t think I have done anything.”

“If I want it enough.” That’s still to be determined.

A coaching challenge

If Kyrgios doesn’t have a full-time coach, it’s because he knows himself well enough to know how hard that job is to fill.

Any coach would jump at the opportunity to work with someone who has that kind of talent. And jobs with player who have major title potential are few and far between.

But the reality of coaching is that the “boss” is technically the employee.  It has to be indescribably hard for these coaches to juggle saying what needs to be said as they consider that if that particular player doesn’t want to hear it, they have the power to end the relationship. 

KyrgiosNot that many coaches have the kind of financial security to risk that, even with the best of intentions. You’d also have to have optimal heart health before undertaking that challenge.

A coach Kyrgios can have control over, a “good cop”, won’t help him much. He knows that.

And at the opposite extreme, the “bad cop” ‘s message won’t get through, either. Because someone barking at the 23-year-old that he needs to get into the gym more, train harder, change this, work on that tactic, may well bring out the contrarian in him.

And, if you try to tinker with the essence of an athlete, what makes them (potentially) great, maybe you change everything.

It’s a far more complex situation than just, “Hey Kyrgios, you should get a coach and take it seriously, for once.”

The Aussie may get to a point where he’s going backwards instead of forwards, with what he wants to achieve – if he ever figures that out – increasingly in the rear-view mirror.

That might make the path clearer. But he’s still a long way from that. 

He knows he can’t be Federer. But it’s not as though he’s not paying attention. He knows.

“I think we’re two very different characters. And I think, you know, just the way he goes about things. I could take a leaf out of his book. The way he behaves on court, you know, his demeanor, I could definitely take away,” he said. “I don’t want to change myself too much, but I could definitely take away things he does in certain situations. He’s the ultimate role model to anyone who wants to play.”

Kyrgios is what he is

In the meantime, he’s Kyrgios. You can hate the way you think he disrespects your favorite sport. That’s fair. You can love him for the way it’s all just out there, raw, human, and for the way he somehow seems so approachable in his struggle. The kids have figured this out. They don’t judge; that’s probably why he likes them so much.

Or you can take him just as he is. And wait for him to figure it out. That’s probably the hardest thing to do in an age where every opinion is polarized. We all want to get to that last chapter in the book, that match point – often without paying attention to the plot, the subtle shifts. 

In the end, he can never hurt the game that much, because he only brings attention to it. These days, even “bad” attention is good attention. There are a lot of people out there making a very good living at that.

At worst, he hurts himself. That’s no one else’s problem.

Because with all due respect to the respectful, hard-working grinders out there, the Schwartzmans and Millmans who honor the game with their efforts and go out there and run their tails off, Kyrgios is the one who turns heads.

He’s the the one you can’t take your eyes off of. And if one of those grinders can come out and beat him, that’s good, too. It takes all kinds.

You’re not going to change him. So you can join him – in a sense. Or ignore him – if you can.