He qualified for the main draw, clocking in with the 18th seed. But Nick Kyrgios remains tennis’ ultimate wild card. He can play spectacularly well and spectacularly poorly—often within in the same match set game point. Kyrgios played dismally at his home Slam, squandering a match point and losing in the second round at the Australian Open. For the next two months, he played top five level tennis, beating Novak Djokovic twice. Hampered by injury, he regressed on clay.
With expectations modest, he came out on Tuesday and….played dazzlingly, less a match than a winning practice session against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. There are not too many players more fun to watch. And there aren’t many players more candid.
Asked about the challenges of clay court tennis, Kyrgios said this: “I don't really like running. That's one thing. So when the rally gets pretty long I tend to just go for a low-percentage shot….What I like about clay? I also don't like how my shoes get dirty. When I'm back home I don't really train that much on clay because it makes my cars dirty, too. What I like about clay, I guess the points are more fun at times. You know, I think you get to see a more variety of shots. I think it can be enjoyable, but, I mean, clay—I think I play well on clay, but I don't think it's my favorite surface.”
Earlier this month, Kyrgios—who has not had a formal coach since 2015—confirmed he is working with former ATP pro Sebastien Grosjean. After his match on Monday he said the partnership is not about the clay, or any particular surface.
“I was kind of just looking for the right person to guide me and keep me on track,” he said. “I feel like my game, I know what to do to win matches. I don't feel like my level is a problem. It's more about being consistent and obviously just finding that motivation every day to stand the grind and give 100%. He's the type of guy that cares about my well-being first rather than just tennis results.
“He knows I need my space at times and he knows how to deal with me. I think at the moment it's pretty good. Obviously it's hard for me when we're in the practice court having someone in my ear. I haven't had that for almost three years. To go from one extreme to the other, it's a slow transition, but I think I'm getting there.”