Tennis Prose



Devastated Kyrgios Shows High Class In Defeat


By Scoop Malinowski

Nick Kyrgios had just lost to Grigor Dimitrov. His dream to win his first major was shattered. It was probably the worst, most excruciating moment of his career. To be playing the best tennis of his life with an entire nation vehemently supporting and backing his Herculean efforts…fighting with every ounce of passion and fury he could muster, only to helplessly watch Dimitrov’s running forehand winner at 4-6 in the fourth set tiebreaker end the epic showdown 67 67 64 67.

Head bowed, mind spinning, heart burning, eyes deadened, body limp, Kyrgios strode to the net a defeated man. Instead of the perfunctory, hollow handshake, Kyrgios showed his unpredictable nature yet again. Devastated, he graciously touched both of his hands on his conqueror and looked him in the eyes, straight in the eyes for a long embrace. And told him to believe in himself … to hopefully go all the way, like he himself wished and dedicated his own life to doing.

In his lowest, most agonizing moment, Kyrgios managed to show a sportsmanship gesture of the highest class.

I can’t recall ever seeing a beaten player show such a kind and warm-hearted affection for the man who just crushed his ultimate dream as Kyrgios showed Dimitrov. Not only does it reflect positively on Kyrgios but it also shines brightly on the kind of person Dimitrov is, to inspire such impressive sportsmanship from a player who has so often been questioned regarding this attribute.

Kyrgios may have lost one of the most important matches of his life last night in Melbourne, but he showed a special quality that many of us never knew existed inside his soul. He showed the tennis world he is a champion in talent and spirit and his moment of truth will surely arrive soon.


What both players said about the special embrace at the net…

Q. It was quite a long embrace between you and Nick at the end tonight. What did you guys say to each other?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I think we were very great with each other, I think. When we are off the court I think we have a lot of respect with each other. We chat with each other in the locker room and all that.

I think obviously I have seen a lot of positivity from him the past weeks, I would say. So I just obviously wished him good luck and to keep on going that way. I think it’s important, and again, we all play this game to have fun, to enjoy it. I know it’s a big battle out there, but, I mean, we are humans, above all. I mean, yes, we compete there, but you have got to be human, above all.

Q. Can you shed any light on what he said? He was picked up on television saying “believe.” That’s all we heard.
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Why don’t you ask him? What was his answer?

Q. What did you say to him in those moments at the net? Clearly there is a lot of respect between the two of you.
NICK KYRGIOS: I just told him to believe in himself. Sometimes I think he lack a bit of belief. But I think he’s got the game and he’s proved to everyone that he can win one of these slams. So I just told him to believe himself and hopefully he can go all the way.

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  • Duke Carnoustie · January 21, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    I thought Nick wanted to kiss him when he got up to the net. Grigor has a reputation for being handsome, after all!

    But seriously, these two are pretty close. Last year in Canada, Nick credited Grigor for some kind words and they have similar personalities in one respect – in that they are both your “jock” types who love to play sports. Grigor is a great athlete who can play many sports and Nick as well.

    Having said all that, this tournament is the Birdman’s last chance for glory. He was embarrassed by Fed in this event last year and also at SW19. If Birdman can’t make this a competitive match, he should retire on the court.

    This guy playing Fed may be the most lopsided R16 match ever in Slam history.

    Just watched the Kerber-Hsieh match. Quality competition by the underdog with her lobs and drop shots. This showdown with Keys should be massive.

    I expect Osaka to cruise past the wounded Halep. I won’t ‘Czech’ out the other match left.

  • catherine · January 22, 2018 at 3:01 am

    Halep ‘cruised’ past Osaka. Not much wrong with Simona there.
    See my comment below for the Czech mate 🙂

  • catherine · January 22, 2018 at 7:00 am

    Djokovic done ! Elbow again ? If so, it’s surgery or nothing.

  • catherine · January 22, 2018 at 7:32 am

    Not to take away from Chung’s achievement. Didn’t hesitate to pile on the pressure.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Not really shocked that Chung and Sandgren won. Because they both looked unbelievably good in the previous rounds. I said this in the Sensational Sandgren article which got lost in the shuffle of all our articles. Sandgren is in the zone, if you saw the Marterer match or the highlights you could see he was playing at a freakish level.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2018 at 8:12 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    The elbow didn't beat Djokovkc, King Kong Chung's play and passing shots did!

  • herios · January 22, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Scoop, you should have more patience in finding your threads LOL. It was not that far below.
    "Scooped it up" for you

  • Andrew Miller · January 22, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Almost wrote Hyeung Chungokovic before they played. He has one of my favorite games on tour these days.

  • Andrew Miller · January 22, 2018 at 9:08 am

    Sandgren has put in the work. I’ve enjoyed his game for a long time.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Scoop Malinowski writes: I'm not fully buying this elbow smokescreen. He played the match, he finished the match. He didn't quit after two sets in fear of doing more damage to it, Djokovic still believed he could win in five sets and that the supposed damage would not have worsened. He kept playing and believing because he believed he was better than Chung. But the reality is that Chung was is the better player right now. Getting tired of all these injury excuses and smokescreens. Djokovic played this event because he believed if he won a few matches he could get in a roll and win the title, with both of his elbows holding up for seven matches. But he didn't foresee playing someone who played as unbelievably well as Chung did last night. Chung shocked the world and beat Djokovic down with an extraordinary display of top five and future no. 1 tennis.

  • Joe Blow · January 22, 2018 at 9:44 am

    At Majors, this site should set aside one Male tour.thread, and one female thread, that way your comments won’t get lost, and progress through the event

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Joe it's hard to stay organized during a major because so much is happening and the time zone change doesn't halep pardon help. And also a technical problem on our end about late posting of Louise and Jayita Belcourt's reports from Melbourne only added to the confusion. But we will try to stay on track covering this magnificent as always event. Sorry for any inconvenience.

  • Federberg · January 22, 2018 at 10:06 am

    I completely agree with you. The fact that his level rose later in the match tells it all to me. I think we can attribute the loss to rustiness at best. At worst he's not the same player anymore. Personally I think we need to give him at least until half way through the season to see whether he can turn things around

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Federberg, He's still Djokovic but he's Djokovic without the confidence and aura of invincibility. He needs to win a lot of matches and also big matches to regain that. No matter how healthy he is, there is no guarantee that Djokovic will ever get those required big wins which is the only way to regain and rebuild his lost aura of invincibility.

  • catherine · January 22, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Joe – we don’t need to segregate comments. It’s a combined tournament and lots of things are happening at once and I’m sure we’re all capable of keeping track of them.

  • Federberg · January 22, 2018 at 10:51 am


  • Michael in UK · January 22, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    I agree with Catherine there.

  • Leif Wellington Haase · January 22, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Scoop: Kudos from here on your prediction that Sandgren would beat Thiem…I thought not only that you had gone out on a limb but had sawed it off behind you. I say that as someone who has seen Sandgren’s talent firsthand for ten years and watched it be dashed repeatedly by injury and self-doubt.

    The other Sandgren AO matches, though of high quality, were mainly about a player never in the spotlight maintaining his nerve and putting together the pieces of a solid game (though Marterer, in particular, is a fast-rising potential star of the future…he cruised through the challenger phase of his career in a year and I doubt he will be back).

    Beating a top-five player at a Grand Slam with only ten matches or so under one’s belt at the tour level is another thing altogether, and even more so in the round of 16 once the top players have gotten their rhythm.

    It’s far more common in the early rounds and even so, almost inevitably, the unsung player falls short– see Mackie McDonald in this AO, and dozens of other examples. I’m sure there is a good analogy to Sandgren’s win but none comes to mind immediately. It is an unusual feat.

    What is striking about Sandgren’s run– and I think it finally ends with Chung in the quarters– is that not only has he found his self-confidence but he has vastly improved a series of technical/ tactical flaws that he’s suffered from his entire career, and as recently as a few weeks ago in the fall…not to bore the readers on the thread but they include his playing closer to the baseline, improving the placement of his second serve, and largely jettisoning a funky, Sock-like forehand mostly in favor of a flatter, deeper ball. (Hand in hand, perhaps, with his new clean-cut look, as readers have noted.) Don’t know the details but it suggests that he used the almost nonexistent tennis off-season very efficiently.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Leif; maybe it's Sandgren has entered a twilight zone of sorts, like Puig in Rios, like Estrella at US Open a few years back, it just can happen at any time. Johansson im Melbourne. Guga and Chang in Paris. Hewitt in Adelaide at 16. Something supernatural is happening with Sandgren. Maybe it's some kind of divine intervention – he's a devout Christian. Something very special is happening with Tennys Sandgren. There are no coincidences.

  • Leif Wellington Haase · January 22, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    When looking around for appropriate analogies and counterparts it’s quickly clear just how unusual Sandgren’s run to the quarters has been, at least on the men’s side.

    If memory serves, Johansson had been at least a Slam quarter-finalist before and on tour forever, Guga and Chang were young players on the cusp of distinguished if perhaps slightly underachieving careers.

    Most other runs at Slams have been because of upsets that blew open a draw: Chris Lewis at Wimbledon was like that and there are probably a couple of dozen others that decimated at least a quarter (Shuzo Matsouka, best remembering for his cramping on court, was one of that group I think– never came close to that kind of result before or after, nor was he ever highly-ranked.)

    Estrella Burgos at the US Open was unique because it was so late in his career but I don’t think he beat a high seed and made it perhaps to the 3rd or 4th round.

    Gaston Gaudio’s victory at the French Open might be the closest, and should Sandgren go on another round or two that may be the only true analogy– Gaudio beat lots of seeds along the way and was himself unseeded I think. Only my opinion but I think more than faith or good form may have been in play there…

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 22, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Wow what happened to Osaka. I thought Halep was wounded. I guess another one bites the dust

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Leif, Yes Gaudio was already a top player and a threat on clay so his run in Paris was not a total out of the blue shock. Sandgren's journey is very unique because he only got his first ATP main tour level win last year in Washington DC vs a Japanese player. I saw this match late at night on court two or three and Sandgren won in three sets. It was such a special, important win and I was the only person there who knew this detail and could share it with him as we chatted for a few minutes there on the court. Even the tournament radio guy who came over to interview Sandgren after the win didn't know it was his first official ATP Tour match win. Then he beat Kyrgios on center court with another amazing display and he almost beat Zverev the next round. After that it was a struggle again, losing in the US Open main draw vs Cilic on Ashe. I believe he only has those two ATP wins last summer. Then suddenly this explosion in Melbourne at age 26. This is definitely Twilight Zone abnormal stuff by Sandgren who has lost to the likes of Tiafoe, Fritz and Kozlov and you have to wonder what this kind of success will do to inspire them.

  • catherine · January 23, 2018 at 1:21 am

    Duke – Simona is a much better player than Osaka at the moment. Simple as that.



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