It’s good to be Nick Kyrgios. The 21-year-old Australian is enjoying a breakthrough year, winning his first ATP World Tour title in Marseille in February, followed by Atlanta in August, and his biggest title yet, the Japan Open last week. He’s now at a career high of No. 14 with an outside chance of making the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
“It feels great. Obviously I was pretty happy with my performance (in Tokyo),” said Kyrgios. “I beat some quality players there and I’m obviously looking forward to this week but, in saying that, I think it’s all down to my new strength and conditioner. He’s been making me work pretty hard in the gym and I feel like I’m making massive gains off the court and it’s obviously showed last week.’”
The Australian has always shown immense talent, notching wins over a host of Top 10 players including Nadal, Federer and Wawrinka. However, it’s been his motivation and training that have come under scrutiny, most recently at the US Open where he tweeted that he’d immediately retire from the game of tennis if he won the tournament. In the end, he would retire, but from a hip injury in the third round.
“After the US Open it was a bit of an eye-opener for me,” he said. “I’m not one of the guys that wants to play the sport for a long time so I didn’t obviously want to get injured, either. So it sort of woke me up a little bit and I decided to get a strength and conditioner on board that could help me just develop as an athlete. He’s been literally working me every day for two-and-a-half weeks and I’m already noticing improvement, so I think that’s what I have to do moving forward.
“To be honest, I wasn’t really doing anything really physical in the gym for the last year-and-a-half. So I’m just getting in the gym more and doing all the basic stuff, trying to build my strength up. When (my strength and conditioning coach) first met me he couldn’t really believe where I was physically and what I was doing at this level, so I’m literally just getting in the gym, and he’s obviously an expert in that field.”
Kyrgios has always been a showman and recently in Tokyo he played what has to be one of the best points of the year. Against flamboyant Gael Monfils, the Australian scrambled to hit a “tweener”, recover to continue the point, hit a drop shot and finished the point with a sharply angled volley. It was a point that brought the house down.
The talent that the 21 year old possesses is quite phenomenal and he is now appreciating it’s consistency that wins big titles.
“I probably always saw myself as a big-match player, I guess,” Kyrgios said. “Obviously a couple of years ago I made a quarter of a Grand Slam but never really was that type of guy who could bring it on a consistent basis. But I think that’s what’s changed the most this year. I’ve sort of found the consistency to sort of bring my game every week and I’m just trying to front up every week with my mental attitude, I guess.’”
While accepting the need to add a strength and conditioning coach to his team, he still remains without a main coach. “No chance I’m having a coach any time soon,” he said with a big smile. “Just won a 500. Think I’m doing all right.”