Kyrgios lifts himself and the World
It will surprise nobody that Nick Kyrgios has found strong common ground with his Team World captain John McEnroe.
Generations apart, but similarly flashy, the two big personalities each share a love to thrive on a big tennis stage. “I think we can relate on many things,” Kyrgios said.
But if there was one surprise as Kyrgios set about claiming two valuable points at the Laver Cup with a 4-6 7-6(4) [10-4] win over Team Europe’s Tomas Berdych, it was that McEnroe’s influence at first seemed muted.
Although to be fair, that was largely down to the efficient Czech. A flat start from Kyrgios – including three double faults in his first two service games – gave Berdych his rhythm and the experienced competitor soon ran away with the first set.
“I thought he served unbelievably well. He was playing well from the back,” the Australian said. ”Obviously had a couple unforced errors, but the way he was hitting it wasn’t giving me much rhythm at all.”
Another factor was the setting, Kyrgios conceding that even after winning in doubles with Jack Sock last night, it took time to warm up the court.
“Obviously I had a slow start,” said the 22-year-old. “I didn’t think I was comfortable just with how big the court is and stuff like in an actual match. Like, I practiced on it, but getting out there in the match, it took me a bit of a while to feel comfortable.”
Treated for a knee injury after the 30-minute opener, Kyrgios also chatted with his captain – and his influence immediately became more pronounced.
“He was just telling me, you know, just leave it all out there and it’s all right to lose to a good player,” said the Australian. “I was just telling him, like, ‘Mac, this is the way I am. It looks like this at times’.”
Still, the animated McEnroe knew what to advise.
Kyrgios should rely on his weapons with his trademark big serve – and while he couldn’t quite capitalize on break points opportunities against Berdych early in the second set, he held tightly onto his own serve and gained control in the tiebreak to send the match into the super tiebreak.
The support of his captain – and his increasingly excited teammates, especially good mate Sock – spurred the Australian along. Occasional errors crept in for Berdych and while many of Kyrgios’ 18 aces came just at the right moments, the Czech double faulted on match point.
“We just had a lot of fun out on the bench,” said Kyrgios of McEnroe’s influence in the one hour, 45 minute encounter. “We were getting along well, and it was really good to have him out there.”
While subtlety is hardly McEnroe’s trademark, his nuanced approach had an effect. “You know, I’m still pretty new with Johnny on the sidelines. I’m still getting to know him, as well,” said Kyrgios after securing an important two points for Team World.
“After today I feel very comfortable. Even when I was just serving, hit a good serve, he instantly says, you know, ‘Great serve’. I love that sort of feedback.”
And in a broader sense, the Australian simply loves the McEnroe effect.
“It’s been awesome,” said Kyrgios, when asked to explain the benefits of the time he’s spent with the seven-time Grand Slam champion at the Laver Cup.
“I actually told him, I was, like, ‘You don’t have the personality that I would have thought played tennis’. I asked him, ‘Why did you play?’
“He said, you know, ‘It’s the same reason you play. It’s because we are better at it than everything else that we do’.”