Sport

Was Wimbledon just the start for Nick Kyrgios or will it prove a mirage?

Shortly after Novak Djokovic furthered his legend at Wimbledon on Sunday, the Serbian and his coach Goran Ivanisevic outlined holiday plans. With it unlikely the 21-time major winner will be able to play in the United States due to his vaccination status, fellow Wimbledon winner Ivanisevic is planning an elongated break.

“There is one movie back home … The Long, Hot Summer,” Ivanisevic said. “This is going to be me – long, hot summer vacation.”

Nick Kyrgios, too, is on a break after his four-set loss to Djokovic in his maiden major final appearance. Although beaten, it was a brilliant effort in the best fortnight of his career. But it left him exhausted.

The question is what comes next, as is so often the case with Kyrgios even when he is at his peak.

Is the past fortnight at Wimbledon the dawn of long, hot summers during which the 27-year-old can be considered a genuine contender everywhere he goes? Or will it prove a mirage?

There is certainty regarding Kyrgios on one count: he is good enough to go deep in a major. It was always suspected but, until Kyrgios actually delivered at Wimbledon, only a theory.

Described as a “tennis genius” by Ivanisevic after the final, Kyrgios truly feels he belongs among the elite.

Stepping onto Centre Court at Wimbledon and trading blows with the second-most successful player in history for more than three hours has given him a sense of certainty.

“I felt like I belonged, to be honest. I’m right there. I’m not behind the eight ball at all,” he said. “I played a slam final against one of the greatest of all time and I was right there.”

There is a common cliché in all global sports about Australians who excel in the latter stages of their careers. They are branded a late Aussie bloomer.

Kyrgios, who before Wimbledon had claimed the status of black hat of tennis and has railed against convention throughout his career, might yet slide into a sporting norm for Aussies.

By virtue of the genius Ivanisevic referred to, the Canberra native exploded onto the circuit like a rocket. He was a tennis prodigy, he wonderkid from Down Under.

A charge through a Challenger tournament in England in 2014 earned him a slot at Wimbledon and Kyrgios, as a teenager, stunned Rafael Nadal at The Championships.

The right-hander has been ranked as high as 13. He has won six ATP Tour titles and reached the decider of a Masters 1000. But there was rarely a sense of professionalism, in part because he skipped some development stages due to his exceptional talent.

Deeds were achieved predominantly on ability alone. Some who begged him to work harder fell out with him.

Kyrgios said after the final he hit for only an hour a day leading into Wimbledon. But others noted differences. He looked as fit as he had in years, and he competed in every match.

The Australian is still without a coach, but feels he now has some exceptionally good people around him.

“I feel like my fire’s been lit this whole year. I’ve obviously met a lot of amazing people this year who have just given me extra motivation,” he said.

“To find people that finally have my back, that I just love being around and they just want to push me to be a better person and to be a better tennis player, they realise that I’m immensely talented and I have a lot of, I feel like, a lot more to do in this sport.”

What does seem to be working is a lighter schedule.

A homebody, the Wimbledon finalist dislikes being away from Australia for too long. The Australian Open doubles champion is not alone. Ash Barty was very much the same.

Scheduling is important in tennis. Stars are thrown significant sums just to appear at regular tournaments.

It is easy for younger players to be drawn by the cash on offer and some thrive on competing regularly. But others who are more secure in their ability to deliver when it counts, including Serena Williams, play sporadically.

There are basic requirements to meet in terms of events played but Kyrgios has embraced the theory that less will be more when it comes to getting the best out of his career.

The world No 45 is entered in a tournament in Washington DC during the same week he is due to appear in a Canberra court on a summons for domestic assault.

Masters series events in Montreal and Cincinnati, where he is a former finalist, follow before the US Open. The stretch is more than one month on the road.

That shapes as Kyrgios’s version of The Long, Hot Summer as opposed to a decent break. How he rebounds from the Wimbledon experience will be as fascinating as Sunday’s final proved.