17-time major winner Roger Federer believes the 21-year-old doesn’t have what it takes to win a Grand Slam crown just yet, but the Swiss admitted he’d be happy to be proved wrong.
Federer, who has previously trained with the controversial Canberra-born star in Dubai, faced similar issues with on-court behaviour during his early 20s.
And ahead of the Australian Open, can Kyrgios answer his critics and win a maiden major title on home soil?
Let us know your thoughts as our two writers debate his future.
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Reem Abulleil, News Editor and Tennis reporter, SAYS YES
In this current era of men’s tennis, winning a grand slam has seemingly become this exclusive right reserved only for a handful of players.
Initially a ‘Big Four’ honour that widened its acceptance list to include Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka, the grand slam club has been near-impossible to rattle.
So it’s understandable when people say a talent like Nick Kyrgios is not ready to win a major yet, simply because barely anyone has managed to snatch one from the Big Four’s teeth since mid-2005, barring the two mentioned above.
But the way I see it, Kyrgios is not your typical player and he does not fit in any specific mould.
This is a guy who reached the quarterfinals on his Wimbledon debut in 2014, beating the then-world No1 Rafael Nadal, as an 18-year-old ranked No144 in the world. He’s also the guy who came back from two sets down to defeat Andreas Seppi, who had beaten Roger Federer in the previous round, to reach a second major quarter-final only six months later.
At 21, he is ranked No13 in the world and owns 10 victories over top-10 players including Federer, Nadal, Wawrinka and Milos Raonic.
It’s true that his temperament has failed him so far in some majors, particularly his fourth round against Andy Murray at Wimbledon last year, where Kyrgios simply didn’t turn up, but contrary to popular belief, the Aussie has been improving on the mental front – his tank job in Shanghai being the exception rather the rule if you look at his 2016 as a whole. People didn’t think he was ready to win a title up until last year. What did he do? He won three in nine months.
While winning seven best-of-five matches over two weeks remains a monster task, if the draw opens up for him, Kyrgios, buoyed by his home crowd, can cause a surprise. After all, who thought Cilic could pull it off when he shocked the field to win the US Open in 2014?
If Kyrgios’ knee holds up, and he is in a serving groove, then he can be a nightmare opponent for most of the field – although Murray remains to be his Achilles’ heel and he has never faced Novak Djokovic before.
Kyrgios is a guy who takes pleasure in proving people wrong and no doubt Federer’s comments will motivate him even more. Is he going to win the Australian Open? Maybe yes, maybe no. But that doesn’t mean he’s not ready for it.
Stuart Appleby, Online and Video Journalist, SAYS NO
If I was Nick Kyrgios, I’d pin Roger Federer’s comments up on my bedroom wall, store them somewhere in my suitcase and have them as my wallpaper/constant memo reminder on my phone.
Being told you’re not ready to win a major…yet…by one of the best players of all time…is surely a great, New Year motivational gift by the Swiss.
It’s one the Canberra-native should be grateful for. Federer’s comments are right but he’s not completely dismissed any future grand slam hopes, he’s merely laid down a gauntlet of sorts. Kyrgios should go out to prove Federer wrong and use it as a spur for the future. I’m sure Roger will be the first to congratulate him and invite him out for dinner if he does.
Let’s be frank, though – Kyrgios isn’t going to win the Australian Open or a major anytime soon in my book.
Having a character like him in the game is great, for there are too many robotic, media-trained players now for my liking.
But, for all his off-court problems, fines and outbursts, I don’t think the 21-year-old has shown any solid evidence yet that he’s harnessed the negative stuff to help him produce on the court. Is he ready to improve on his best grand slam showings so far (two quarter-finals at Wimbledon and Melbourne)? I don’t think so.
The Australian, to me, still feels like a ‘stopper’ – a term Jimmy Connors has used down the years to describe a player, who on their day, can blow anyone off the court. But they tend to follow that up with a below-par showing.
Lukas Rosol and Sergiy Stakhovsky (sorry guys) always jump into my head when I write about this.
Kyrgios can be and is so much better than these types, though.
What’s interesting is that the Aussie and Federer, in their early 20s, were both similar.
Although Fed’s outbursts and smashed racquets didn’t extend to any controversy outside the court like Kyrgios’ have, the talent both players possessed at a relatively young age was there for all to see. Federer managed to harness it and get his game together at a crucial time, winning Wimbledon as a 22-year-old in 2003. Kyrgios has to do the same, but get his act together urgently.
He needs to ask himself ‘What do I actually want from my career and do I want it enough?’ If the answer to both those questions is positive, he should drop Roger a Whatsapp, quickly.