Last week, I gave Nick Kyrgios a serve on what he needed to improve upon in order to reach the pinnacle of tennis.
This week, we’re going to focus on the positives, and why the young Australian is one of the most feared players on tour from the Challenger regulars all the way up to the Masters and Grand Slam champions.
Kyrgios’ game can be dissected in 100 words or 1,000, but in this article I want to focus on two of the things that make Nick, Nick. What are two things about his game that are so irresistible?
Nick Kyrgios’ main weapon is his service; Kyrgios ranks in the top 15 in first serve points won, in the top 10 in first serve percentage, second serve points won and aces per match, and in the top five in serve games won, with the ATP ranking his serve 5th on tour with their serve rating metric.
Nick’s service is as textbook as they come. He hits the ball at the peak of his ball toss, sometimes even as it’s on the way up, and his 1.93 metre height and gigantic wingspan means his contact zone is one of the highest on tour.
As we’re well aware, Nick Kyrgios flies through his service games, but this is not merely the result of his well-noted attention issues. Similar to former service gods Goran Ivanisevic and Roscoe Tanner, Kyrgios’ action is so quick and fluid that it makes his serves almost impossible to guess, let alone return.
Once a match at the very least will you see Nick’s service help him work his way out of a hole or wiggle his way free when his opponent has him backed against the wall.
His service proficiency fits the bill of one of the two “pillars” of modern tennis that we have seen most top players base their games around – serving and defence.
Nick Kyrgios is in luck then – his defensive potential is arguably better than anyone else on tour his age.
We know how aggressive Kyrgios is, in both play style and nature. Nick himself has described himself as a perpetually aggressive player.
What allows him such aggression is quite obviously his thunderous groundstrokes. Nick can hit a winner from any spot on the court against any opponent, which is a hallmark of the best defenders in the game, such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Nick Kyrgios has all the physical attributes that resemble the above group of players – he’s long, athletic, hard to pass at the net with soft hands, and can cover the court quickly.
Where Kyrgios falters is his transition from defence to offence. When the table is not perfectly set for him, through an oppositional error in judgment or the like, Nick finds it harder to stay on top the longer the rally goes on.
This is currently where, in the big games, such as Grand Slam Finals and semi-finals, he is working from behind. Where Djokovic and Nadal can rally all day, Nick Kyrgios cannot. His eyes light up far too often and he plays himself out of the rally.
This was something Andy Murray used to struggle with, who is now also considered an elite defender. Ivan Lendl is often credited with helping Murray’s maturity, which he certainly did, but is not often lauded for the perfect balance that he also brought to Andy’s game.
Andy Murray’s physical gifts of agility and speed (he is quicker than Usain Bolt over 40 metres) gave him all the physical tools required to engineer a counter attacking game, and it took only a few months of Lendl’s tutelage to show him how.
Kyrgios’ complete service game and defensive potential has tennis fans, coaches and pundits everywhere excited for his future – myself included.
Can he put it all together and become a Grand Slam champion?