Australian Open 2022 — Nick Kyrgios shows his talent and lack of interest in losing to Daniil Medvedev

MELBOURNE, Australia — On paper, a second-round Grand Slam match with the tournament’s highest-ranked player and a man languishing outside the top 100 wouldn’t be one to spark even the slightest interest or excitement in the average tennis lover.

But when that low-ranking player is the flamboyant Nick Kyrgios, that changes everything. The 26-year-old from the Australian capital is arguably the sport’s greatest showman, and within an hour of Tennis Australia scheduled his round of 64 with Russian ace Daniil Medvedev at the Rod Laver Arena, there was no ticket left. before purchase.

After all, if his opening match against unheralded Briton Liam Broady was a blockbuster – it featured forearm services, behind-the-back shots, the signature Cristiano Ronaldo “siu” party and even a sip of beer – what would come when he faced the second? ranked player in the world?

For three hours, Kyrgios and Medvedev amused themselves and blinded each other and lifted each other to great heights. But in the end, the match revealed a stark contrast between the fiery and unpredictable Kyrgios and the almost robotic Medvedev, who for the past 24 months has made a habit of taking down opponents on hard courts with his ability to extend each rally. He did it in the second round against Kyrgios and won 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Kyrgios must have exchanged words with chair umpire Carlos Bernardes dozens of times as a stoic and determined Medvedev stood in position at the other end of the field, waiting to start the next point.

The match also raised a familiar question, which has plagued Kyrgios throughout his controversial career: How good could he be if he really loved the sport?

Kyrgios, who ranks 115th in the world, has admitted on numerous occasions that tennis is more or less his ‘part-time job’. It’s not exactly his passion. He is a tragic basketball player, avid gamer and fashionista who happens to be good at hitting a ball over a net.

If the rankings were based on raw talent, even the biggest critics of Kyrgios would struggle to argue that he’s not a top 10 player on the tour. Few possess anything close to the power it can generate with just a flick of the wrist. You can count on one hand the number of professionals who would venture even a few of the circus acts that are now the staples of a Kyrgios competition. It’s only his unflappable attitude to the sport that has kept him from ever cracking the ATP top 10 or delving deep into a major.

There were patches against Medvedev where it was Kyrgios whose level resembled that of the second best player in the world. There were breathtaking cross-court slashes, pin-point service games, and baseline deep drop shots that even the fastest player on tour couldn’t have recovered.

“Of course I’m not happy with Daniil’s draw in the second round, because my ranking slipped,” Kyrgios said after the game. “If I play 95% of the people [in the second round] on that pitch, I think I’ll win, to be honest.”

Perhaps. But the trick shots he released at critical moments, which more often than not failed, left Medvedev off the hook. And Kyrgios wasn’t doing himself any favors by awarding Medvedev too many points when he was behind in a match.

“Nick is one of, if not the most talented player in the world,” said Broady after his first round defeat to the Australian. “He makes you feel stupid with the shots he hits, [but] if you told him to stop with all that showmanship and all the hassle he does on the court, it would take a lot of power away from his game.”

It’s worth remembering that Kyrgios was in isolation with COVID-19 around this time last week and there were doubts about his entry into the Australian Open. He deserves credit for forcing Medvedev to play his best, but fans will always wonder what could have happened to Kyrgios.

Given his blasĂ© attitude towards tennis, intrigue has sprung up over the past 24 months around Kyrgios’ future. It wouldn’t come as a shock if he decided to leave the sport and never look back. Tennis has so few real characters and it would be a real shame to lose the personality of Kyrgios, who is booming in his athletic prime.

But if he’s made nearly $10 million by his 27th birthday and has had enough, can you really blame him?

“You know, I clearly felt the game was coming to an end, so I looked around and just embraced every little moment,” Kyrgios said. “Every little light in that stadium is special because I remember as a little kid I was a court where I saw a lot of tennis matches. One day I thought I would be there and entertain millions of people. It became reality, it was a special moment for me.

“At my point in my career, the ups and downs of life in general — I don’t take every moment like that for granted.”

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