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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Kyrgios proved he belonged on the Slam stage in Wimbledon loss

WIMBLEDON, England ( Associated Press) — Wearing a backwards cap with the brim tilted skyward, Nick Kyrgios shot between the legs as he prepared for the Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic.

Kyrgios was just getting started. Once he started the game, he attempted an underarm serve. He conjured up a pair of back-to-the-net running tweeners on consecutive points, one a pass shot, one a lob. And for a full set on Sunday, in the most important match of his life, on one of the most famous courts in the world, in a tournament as prestigious as there is, against one of the greatest players in tennis history, Kyrgios he played brilliantly.

Oh, did he ever: Seven aces, 14 winners, just four unforced errors. Fully Composite No distractions. Talk about meeting the moment.

“I felt,” Kyrgios would say later, “like I belonged, to be honest.”

For a set, anyway. Then, as is often the case, he allowed the little things to annoy him. He let his opponent win the game. He began to berate himself. And so, ultimately, Kyrgios saw his early lead disappear in what would become a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) loss to Djokovic at the All England Club.

This was the 32nd Grand Slam final for top-seeded Djokovic (he has won 21 such titles, including seven at Wimbledon) and the first for unseeded Kyrgios.

“You can’t prepare (for a) match against Nick Kyrgios,” said Djokovic’s coach, the 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic. “Nick Kyrgios is a genius, a tennis genius.”

The 27-year-old Australian is ranked 40th and hadn’t even been to a major quarter-final in seven and a half years. He hasn’t won a tour-level title since 2019. But he didn’t perform that way early on.

“I felt like the trophy was definitely achievable today,” said Kyrgios, who hit 30 aces.

He draws as much attention for his attitude and demeanor, on and off the court, as he does for his considerable talent.

More seriously, it emerged during Wimbledon that Kyrgios is supposed to be in court in Australia next month to face an assault charge.

He spat in the direction of a booing spectator during a game this fortnight. He got in trouble for swearing during another, and again on Sunday.

Once his lead started to wane, and after losing a return game after being up at love-40, and a service game after being up at 40-love, Kyrgios started talking to people. in his guest box, which included his father and his girlfriend (but no coach, because he doesn’t have one). He would yell in that direction. Or make a dismissive move. He dropped a bottle of water.

The chair umpire also heard a lot from Kyrgios, such as a complaint that a woman he thought had been drinking was talking to him during the match.

“I mean, look, I’ve been out a few nights in my life,” Kyrgios said at his news conference, “and I knew she’d had one too many.”

There were those who wondered throughout his career if Kyrgios could ever harness his tremendous skills and make it to the final weekend of a major tournament. The ability has been there for a long time; that’s why he was 2-0 against Djokovic before Sunday, and also has wins over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“Everything is starting to fall into place for you,” Djokovic told Kyrgios during the trophy ceremony on Center Court.

“It’s hard to find words of comfort after a tough loss like this, but you showed why you deserve to be one of the best players in the world, particularly on this surface,” Djokovic said. “I wish you the best. I really respect you a lot.”

Kyrgios said the last two weeks have been stressful for him. Attention, and comments, on social networks. And since he learned that he would participate in a Grand Slam final after Nadal withdrew from the semifinals on Thursday with an abdominal injury, Kyrgios could not sleep at night.

He said about a month and a half ago he was playing basketball with some friends in Australia and he said to one of them, “Look, I think I’m going to have some fun and maybe win Wimbledon.”

I was so close.

“I look back,” Kyrgios said, “and I’m like, ‘How am I here?'”

___

More Associated Press Wimbledon coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/wimbledon and https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

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