Jan/18

7

Is Kyrgios Taking Tennis To New Zenith?

nickk

By Scoop Malinowski

Nick Kyrgios, who just decimated the Brisbane field, to win his first ATP title in two years with a straight set final win vs Ryan Harrison, holds a very rare, most impressive distinction in his career.

Kyrgios is the only man in history to beat prime Federer, Nadal and Djokovic the first time he played each. That is an incredible achievement and most likely a feat that will never be matched. Lleyton Hewitt is the only other player to beat Fed, Rafa and Djokovic the first time he tried but Hewitt’s version of the “hat trick” is misleading because neither of the super troika were at their prime best at the time.

This monumentally rare accomplishment is further proof of how extraordinary and devastating Kyrgios is – when he’s playing his best.

With his lethal arsenal of weaponry – the serve, the slap shot forehand, the punishing backhand, the easy hefty power, the uncanny volleying, the creativity in different forms such as the use of the Fed Saber – Kyrgios is a tennis wrecking machine.

At his best, you have to wonder of Kyrgios could beat any player from history? Well, why couldn’t he? He has shown he can beat prime Fed, Rafa and Nadal in his very first opportunities.

Of course, we know Kyrgios when not focused or disinterested could lose to any grinder or journeyman, out on court seven at eleven o’clock in the morning.

But it’s reasonably plausible that Kyrgios, on center court in a showcase night match, could inflict on Laver, Lendl, McEnroe, Agassi, Sampras, Tilden, Connors, the exact same thing he did to Fed, Rafa and Djokovic the first time he played each.

So one has to wonder: Is it possible that this super-talented enigma with the flamboyant game and persona, when operating at his very best, is actually playing the highest level of tennis we have ever witnessed?

Maybe.

Yes, maybe.

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62 comments

  • El Dude · January 7, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Scoop, I love your passion but boy are you the Master of Hyperbole!

    Look, I have been outspoken about thinking Kyrgios can be an elite player, and that he is more explosive young player on tour – more so than Zverev. In some ways he reminds me of Stan Wawrinka (not his game, but combination of erratic but occasionally super high form), another player who can beat anyone on a good day.

    But let's be honest: Kyrgios beat the 2017 version of Novak. He also beat Olderer. And he beat grass version Rafa. Those were his first three wins against the Trinity. Still very impressive, but you're spinning it slightly.

    That said, Kyrgios could be great. I think he'll be great at times and win several Slams. But he is not taking tennis to new heights. IMO.

  • Doug Day · January 7, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Very vexing subject. Not since McEnroe’s antics has there been a player i love to hate more. I was hoping they’d combust as coach & coachee at the Laver Cup in a Team World quazar. But, not unlike Trump, that train wreck too became our finest hour. Cant speak for Nick but Macs from Queens.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 7, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    Harrison pulled out of NZ, avoided certain defeat to Johnson.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 7, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    Donald Young out in R1 in NZ against Sousa. This year could be the beginning of the end for DY if he doesn’t get his act together.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 7, 2018 at 10:58 pm

    Tennis-Prose commenters – mark down April 21 since we are sure to be invited to the wedding of Steve Johnson. It’s in southern California, here’s the registry…

    https://registry.theknot.com/kendall-bateman-steve-johnson-april-2018/22671218

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 7, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    The black court at the Laver Cup is coming to the New York Open Feb. 12-18.

  • catherine · January 8, 2018 at 1:42 am

    Rain in Syney, but not before Giorgi dumps out Sloane Stephens SS, 6-0 in second. Hope Sloane’s saved some of that USO money……

  • catherine · January 8, 2018 at 4:31 am

    Marathon rain interrupted Kerber/Safarova in Sydney – Lucie blows it in 2nd set tiebreak. She looked ghastly pale at the end, which Angie runs out easily. But we’re not at Hopman Cup anymore.

  • Michael in UK · January 8, 2018 at 8:32 am

    UK Guardian newspaper reports Murray has had hip surgery in Melbourne

    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/jan/08/andy-murray-hip-surgery-aims-to-return-wimbledon-tennis

  • Chazz · January 8, 2018 at 8:55 am

    Hip surgery sounds really serious to me. I can’t believe he would be back for Wimbledon but I guess that’s what he was told. I wonder if he’ll ever get back to where he was.

  • Andrew Miller · January 8, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Gavrilova, Australia’s best player. No asterisks!

  • catherine · January 8, 2018 at 9:03 am

    In Melbourne Murray ‘spoke exclusively to British tennis writers’.

    Now why on earth ? Is the news ‘exclusively British’ ?

    Reporters outside that magic circle just have to read about it in British papers – boo hoo 🙂

  • Chazz · January 8, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Good to see Shapo win his first match in Auckland. He has to get by Del Potro next round but I’m hoping for a Shapo-Sock final this weekend.

  • Hartt · January 8, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Catherine, Andy is throwing the poor British press a bone. After all, they went all the way to Australia to cover his matches! 🙂

    Imagine recovery time depends on the type of surgery, but Milos had hip surgery shortly after the 2011 Wimby and was back playing in Sept.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    El Dude; Fed is still prime. Off years does not mean he lost his prime. two majors last year proves Fed is still prime. He barely missed no. 1, probably would have got it if he didn't blow that 5-2 third set TB lead to Donskoy or lose to Haas in Halle. Rafa won Wimbledon so to assert Rafa is weak and vulnerable on grass is laughable. Can you measure how much Djokovic in 17 was off his prime. Players can still be in their prime and have off years (Fed). Kyrgios has a level of tennis that is incomparable, extraordinary and kryptonite to even the greatest of tennis superpowers. Kyrgios has only shown us the tip of the iceberg of what he is capable of. I think it's very possible Kyrgios is going to play the highest level of tennis we have ever seen. He won't do it on a consistent basis…but then again, who knows. Kyrgios is impossible to predict.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2018 at 9:27 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Smart move by Harrison. He's in top form and ready to focus on the big one. No need to exert in NZ, he's ready, he got his points in Brisbane and Melbourne is the target. Not New Haven, pardon, New Zealand.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    This is a big year for Young. The game could pass him by. The teenagers could pass him by. He slipped last year. It will be interesting to see his draws and if he has to face off with some of these teen threats like Tsitsipas, Rublev, Chung, De Minaur and how losses to these players will affect his psyche. The beginning of the end for Gulbis was his losses to young guns Thiem and Kokkinakis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2018 at 9:31 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    When a former no. 1 talks about being satisfied playing top 30 tennis, you know it's a very very ominous sign. I think Dan has brought out his infamous shovel for Murray's career as an elite player and threat at majors.

  • catherine · January 8, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Hartt – the British tennis writers (don’t anyone dare call them ‘reporters’) are such a cosy bunch, it must have come as a real slap in the face from Andy when he suggested that he was returning to England and then, guess what, doubled-back to Mebourne and the operating table. Didn’t tell them !
    Red faces everywhere. Andy, how could you do this to us ?

    I suppopse there’s Konta to justify the trip although she’s having hip problems as well……

  • catherine · January 8, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Andrew –
    I’m bemused by your obsession with Gavrilova. Ashleigh Barty is Australia’s best woman player 🙂

    And who beat the lovely Dasha in Perth ?

    1-2-3 – oh, I forgot.

  • Hartt · January 8, 2018 at 10:02 am

    I could only see highlights of Shapo’s match against Dutra Silva, but he played extremely well. He even said he thought he’d played the perfect match. It was great to see him be so effective at the net.

    Delpo will be very tough. He is feeling good and will want to avenge his Montreal loss to Denis. I’m hoping that Denis will prevail, but my gut feeling is that Delpo will win this one. However, I have been wrong more than once thinking Denis won’t win a match!

  • Federberg · January 8, 2018 at 10:11 am

    scoop said:

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    El Dude; Fed is still prime. Off years does not mean he lost his prime. two majors last year proves Fed is still prime. He barely missed no. 1, probably would have got it if he didn't blow that 5-2 third set TB lead to Donskoy or lose to Haas in Halle. Rafa won Wimbledon so to assert Rafa is weak and vulnerable on grass is laughable. Can you measure how much Djokovic in 17 was off his prime. Players can still be in their prime and have off years (Fed). Kyrgios has a level of tennis that is incomparable, extraordinary and kryptonite to even the greatest of tennis superpowers. Kyrgios has only shown us the tip of the iceberg of what he is capable of. I think it's very possible Kyrgios is going to play the highest level of tennis we have ever seen. He won't do it on a consistent basis…but then again, who knows. Kyrgios is impossible to predict.Click to expand…

    You're really going with Federer is still in his prime? Quite apart from the age, do you remember how good Roger used to be? Come on man…

    You can talk about prime results, but prime in terms of level? Come on man..

  • britbox · January 8, 2018 at 10:13 am

    ^Yep, Federer is 10 years from his prime… but he is the gift that keeps on giving.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Yes, I think Federer was at his best last year – the year he finally solved Nadal, winning all four matches vs Nadal.

  • El Dude · January 8, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    @scoop, it depends what you mean by "prime." I tend to differentiate "prime" and "peak." Peak is a shorter phase when a player consistently reaches their best form. For Federer that was 2004-07. Prime is more the long plateau of their career that includes peaks and values. For Fed it could be 2003 to present.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 8, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    They don’t even say what kind of hip surgery Murray had? Was it to repair a torn labrum? Doesn’t sound good for a 31-year-old by the time he returns to recover well from hip surgery. Didn’t work well for Kuerten, Norman or Hewitt who were never the same after their hip surgeries.

    I’ve had two hip resurfacing’s which I imagine are a lot more invasive than Murray’s ever had and I can’t play nearly as well or move nearly as well as I did before my hips went south. And then when you injure hip, it affects your running gait which leads to other injuries. I’m going to be rooting for Murray, but this seems a lot more serious than a Fed or Wawa knee surgery.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 8, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    I don’t know what future or even present DY has, but boy, I’d take that dude in an arm wrestle against even Nadal.

    Auckland is a cool event so is Brisbane. They draw so well at those tourney’s. Auckland reminds me of Delray some with the car on the court, but Delray during the day doesn’t draw anything close to what Auckland does. It’s seemingly one of the best well-attended events on tour and what is it a 500?

  • catherine · January 8, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Dan – New Zealand doesn’t have that much tennis action. Rugby and cricket (distant second) are the sports there.

    So Auckland would attract fans from all over I imagine. And the Auckland WTA is a well established tournament the week before.

    Have there been good players from NZ ? I really don’t know, or can’t remember.

  • catherine · January 8, 2018 at 3:03 pm

  • catherine · January 8, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Chris Lewis, New Zealander of course.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    El Dude, I think Fed played some of the best if not the best tennis of his life in 2017.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Brett Steven was a solid player with some big results in the 90s. Michael Venus won the French Open doubles last year with Harrison. So yes, New Zealand has produced several notable players.

  • Andrew Miller · January 8, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    Ash Barty is good. I appreciate the Aussie wta players volley well!

  • scoopmalinowski · January 8, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Ash Barty is probably the most inspiring Wta player today.

  • catherine · January 9, 2018 at 2:12 am

    Volleying is in the blood of all Oz tennis players !

    Barty’s only disadvantage is her height but I haven’t actually checked whether she loses to taller players regularly.

    Ash may turn out to be Jana Novotna of our time – great doubles results and less consistent in singles.
    (although Jana was taller at 5/9 )

  • Front242 · January 9, 2018 at 2:37 am

    Yeah he played some great sets but his level was downright poor at times too and wouldn't have dipped so dramatically in his prime.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 9, 2018 at 8:04 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Fed has to preserve his energy and pick his spots because his fuel tank does not get as good mileage as it did in his mid 20s. It's about playing his best but also preserving the engine for as many years as possible. Delicate balance.

  • dan markowitz · January 9, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Kelly Everenden comes to mind and of course Chris Lewis who played Mac in the Wimpy finals I believe 1983.

    Catherine, thanks for posting the Guardian article on Murray. Yes, he’s in a bit of a pickle. They didn’t say in the article what they really did to his hip other than “clean it up.” I don’t know how he’s certain the surgery will allow him to fully “extend” the hip in chasing a ball to his max. I’ve got a similar problem where it’s my right hip and hamstring are so tight and it’s painful when I try to extend fully pushing off my right side. Of course, I never could run like Murray anyhow, but i once was never drop-shotted on the court where I couldn’t reach the ball and I’d regularly charge the net off a backhand slice coming in from the baseline, now I never try that shot or quick explosive movement.

    What’s chilling in that article is when Murray says he’s talked to people who’ve had hip replacement surgery and he’s comforted that these people all have liked the outcome. My experience with hip replacement tennis players is I don’t know any who’ve had them who play on anything but clay courts and mostly doubles.
    but I guess Andy’s saying he;” take hip replacements as a bargain if he can play high-level tennis for the next five years. Kind of a deal with the devil it seems.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 9, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    By the way, I told you DeMinaur was going to beat Verdasco 🙂

  • Shivashish Sarkar · January 9, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Kyrgios is a fancy player, power forehands, big serve, tweeners an all..

    I remember I was afraid when he was bludgeoning the ball against Federer at Laver Cup, one intimidating sight. Federer really had to dig deep into his back of tricks to win points. That night, at one point, I felt Kyrgios was taking the match.

    I watched the Fast Four exhibition. Kyrgios was okay, and great in phases. Once again, he came up with charisma and game.

    It remains to be seen where he gets to, if he really can build a slam-winning game finally. Now that he is a bit more serious about his work, can he finally arrive at the slam scene?

    What about Shapovalov? Do you have a piece on him, Scoop?

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 9, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Shivashish; Kyrgios was at his best last year in both narrow losses to Fed in Miami and Laver Cup. But it appears that Kyrgios has raised his game and his mental mindset to a higher level this year. For some reason I believe Nick will beat Fed if they play in Melbourne. However Nick looks in this short set exo doesn't really matter, we saw how sharp he looked in Brisbane. He's ready to do what so many of us expect him to do. Conquer the draw in a major. Shapovalov is a player that we will be discussing for years and years to come. I have not seen him play yet this year but that will change soon and whatever observations there are about Shapovalov will be shared here so stay tuned. Welcome to the site Shivashish.

  • Moxie · January 9, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    scoop said:

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    El Dude; Fed is still prime. Off years does not mean he lost his prime. two majors last year proves Fed is still prime. He barely missed no. 1, probably would have got it if he didn't blow that 5-2 third set TB lead to Donskoy or lose to Haas in Halle. Rafa won Wimbledon so to assert Rafa is weak and vulnerable on grass is laughable. Can you measure how much Djokovic in 17 was off his prime. Players can still be in their prime and have off years (Fed). Kyrgios has a level of tennis that is incomparable, extraordinary and kryptonite to even the greatest of tennis superpowers. Kyrgios has only shown us the tip of the iceberg of what he is capable of. I think it's very possible Kyrgios is going to play the highest level of tennis we have ever seen. He won't do it on a consistent basis…but then again, who knows. Kyrgios is impossible to predict.Click to expand…

    Scoop, do you seriously believe that a player's "prime" can extend across some 14 years? We all agree that Federer is an extraordinary player, but is he still in his "prime?" The blush of youth is long gone. Even his fantastic run without injury issues is gone. He still has great tennis in him, and he tries to manage his schedule and his body. Maybe it's just semantic, but I don't see how you can compare this to his real salad years. As to Kyrgios, I like him a lot and respect his talent, but "incomparable," "kryptonite," "highest we've ever seen?" I agree with El Dude that you are the king of hyperbole. I'll give you this, though, you have no fear of the bold prediction.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 10, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Enough with this nonsense about trying to measure a player's prime. Ok, do you want to measure primes? Go ahead and go out and measure Serena's prime. 🙂

  • El Dude · January 10, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    This is a good point and something I’ve struggled with when trying to define prime, peak, etc. Ultimately they are artificial constructs, but at the same time they are frequently used terms, so we’re left needing some idea of what we mean by them.

    One thing that I came to at some point is that the difference between prime and peak depends upon how frequently a player can access their A game. During a player’s peak, it is with great frequency. During non-peak but still prime, it is still possible but not as frequently, for whatever reason, be it injury, confidence, actual physical decline, etc. But a player can still find their A game during their prime…once they can’t, except maybe once a blue moon, their prime is over.

    So in that sense, Roger is still in his prime (although dipped out in 2013), but not peak, imo. 2017 was very close to peak, and really on the cusp, but I just don’t think he had the consistency across all surfaces and almost every tournament that he had in 2004-07. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t play at a similar level. Early last year he was as good as ever, but he didn’t sustain it.

    Compare Lleyton Hewitt. We haven’t seen his best game in over a decade, and thus his prime was relatively short – maybe 2000 to 2006, which a smaller peak in 2001-02.

    Part of Roger’s greatness is how long he’s been able to maintain his prime. I don’t think we should undervalue that, and how rare it is. If he entered his prime in 2003, and it has lasted through 2017 at least, that’s 14-15+ years. Who else has maintained a prime for 15+ years? Connors and Agassi kind of, but not as consistently or as close to their peak as Roger. I think we have to go back to Ken Rosewall to see someone comparable.

  • Moxie · January 10, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Then Scoop makes a good point with Serena. You could probably add Venus, then, who played some great tennis even last year, and was in final at Wimbledon, 20 years after her first Major final. Martina had 19 years between her first and last Major finals, too.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 10, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    El Dude, Serena's prime is still extending. Over 15 yrs. Hingis retired still in her doubles prime 🙂

  • El Dude · January 10, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    I think we have to look at the ATP and WTA separately as I believe women tend to have greater longevity and there are just other factors that make them almost different sports (At the risk of sounding like Jack Kramer; I just watched Battle of the Sexes).

    But yeah, Serena and Roger are parallels in many ways, although Serena's prime is even longer. She won her first big title at Indian Wells in 1999, at age 17. If she is able to find her prime form this year and win a Slam, that would be a 20-year span of Slam titles! That hasn't been done on either side since Ken Rosewall, who also had a 20-year Slam span.

  • Moxie · January 10, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    I don't know why you have to look at them as separate sports, but, given that women tend to retire to have kids, or take a break for kids, longevity for them could be considered even more amazing.

  • El Dude · January 10, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    I'm not making a judgement either way, Moxie (about longevity). And I said "almost different sports" not "separate sports." A subtle but crucial difference.

    Let's be honest: the men's game is played on a much higher level. I don't know if I agree with John McEnroe, but he said that the top 500 ATP players could beat Serena Williams, probably the best woman player ever. I say this not to put down the women, but to emphasize that the higher level involves different dynamics – of power, speed, strength, etc, all of which are impacted by aging in different ways.

    In other words, we can't really compare things like longevity or prime age ranges because of the different dynamics that the male/female and level involve.

  • El Dude · January 10, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    This is also why I greatly dislike ranking men and women together, like the Tennis Channel did a few years ago. In a way it subtly undermines the greatness of female players to try to compare Navratilova and Graf to Federer; we all know there is no comparison, so why rank them together?

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