Unseeded and ranked behind 62 other players, Nick Kyrgios arrived at Wimbledon and emptied an improbable can of whoop-ass for two weeks on the grass at the All England Club, bringing him all the way to the final for a matchup against Novak Djokovic.
Though Kyrgios came up short in the four-set final as Djokovic captured his seventh Wimbledon title and 21st Major overall, the 27-year-old had nothing to hang his head about in losing to the four-time reigning champion.
In an interesting twist, Kyrgios has supported the Boston Celtics since 2005 (after playing as them on PlayStation) a team that had an equally improbable run to a near-championship, hovering around .500 midway through the season and building toward a matchup in the finals against the Golden State Warriors. Like Kyrgios, the Celtics weren’t able to finish the job and succumbed to the seven-time champs in six games — but it was a helluva ride.
Speaking to InsideHook ahead of the U.S. Open following the “Conversation With Champions” event in the Madison Room at the Lotte New York Palace hotel, Kyrgios, who is such a big fan of the Green that he’s admitted to throwing matches because he was upset about a Boston loss, said he believed the Celtics had it. “I’m a massive Celtics fan. I loved Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett is my favorite player of all time. I honestly thought we were gonna win,” he said last week. “It was as close as you can get. We’re back to nearly getting the Chip.”
After what Kyrgios, who began his run in Flushing Meadows with a win over fellow Australian and doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinaki in straight sets in the final match of the U.S. Open’s opening day, showed the world at Wimbledon, it’s looking like he’s working toward a major championship of his own. “After Wimbledon, I want to keep the momentum going,” he said. “I’ve been playing some great tennis over the last three months and there’s a lot going on, but being away from home is tough. I’m excited about New York. That’s where my focus is right now and whatever happens happens, but then I know I need to go home to go see my family and have that balance of being a normal human.”
It’s not surprising for Kyrgios to speak about the need for balance, as he turned to social media earlier this year to talk openly about his mental health challenges and the pressures of being in the spotlight.
“I’ve just dealt with it from a very young age,” he said. “I really struggled earlier on in my life. I didn’t understand how to process everything, the negativity, the positivity. It was all just coming in waves. I feel like I’m getting used to it and I’m still learning and I deal with it a lot better. I’ve got a very stable group around me now that keeps me on point and in my lane. I just try and embrace it and all that comes with it. I’ve kind of learned to just ride everything out. You just gotta take it as it comes.”
What appears to be coming for 23rd-seeded Kyrgios is a deep run at Flushing Meadows and a new chapter in what has already been a noteworthy career. “My life is definitely a roller coaster. I’ve been able to travel the world, and I’ve seen enough in my life for almost 20 people,” Kyrgios said. “It’s been good to see how my career has evolved as well. It’s had its ups and it’s definitely had its downs. We’re kind of on another peak again right now, but I don’t wanna ride too high because I know it’ll come back around at some stage.”
If that happens in Flushing and Kyrgios departs the Open early, the time in New York still will have been worth it. “There’s just something different about New York. You can feel the energy. You get here early and you can’t feel it, and as the days creep towards the first round, you can definitely feel it. I’ve been trying to get out and about and soak in the experiences of New York and all these beautiful places we get to visit. There’s something different about this major compared to the rest of them.”