In my last piece I spoke about the different mental approach required by Nick Kyrgios to beat Novak Djokovic for a second time.
I was really impressed with him today. Watching the match, we saw calm and engaged eyes and that’s something that is pretty new. That shows that he is a more in-tune athlete this week than we’ve seen from him on previous occasions.
There has always been talk about whether he is good enough to win a Major, but we’ve never had any solid proof that he is. If he is able to go on and beat three class players – the #NextGen star, the world No.2 and then one of the Greatest of All Time in Roger Federer – then I believe that he has proven physically and mentally that he has what it takes to win a Slam – to beat the toughest talent out there.
Looking forward, I think the pressure in the quarterfinals is on Roger. He’s coming towards the end of his career, and he’s playing a guy who is chasing him; who wants to be in his position. Yes he has just won the Australian Open, but he is also trying to maintain his seniority at the top of the tree.
If Nick wins that match and comes out of this quarter, I believe that it signals a real shift in the power and direction of men’s tennis. The game is ready for it and the game needs it.
But perhaps more importantly, it will prove to Nick what he is capable of. He will walk away knowing that he can do special things. He may already believe that, but this is actual evidence of it. There’s still a long way to go, but from the perspective of the locker room he has momentum. That is huge. The ‘aura’ that Novak once had has dissipated, and Nick is now starting to accrue it. He’s going on court and the guys are scared to play him because they know what he is capable of.
A quick word on Novak. I wrote a piece a few weeks back about this being a rebuilding phase. Well, he’s not where I expected him to be at this point. I also spoke about the importance of his mental approach and from what I saw today he’s not handling it well. His emotions on court are causing him to lose before we even address his ball striking.
There are worrying signs about how he’s going to get his game back into shape. The longer it goes, the more his aura dilutes and the belief in the locker room changes. Twelve months ago he was almost unbeatable and his opponents were just hoping to play a good match against him. Today, they all think that they have a chance of taking a big scalp.
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