There is a gravitational pull that takes hold of the tennis world each March, pulling the world’s best tennis players to Tennis Paradise in the desert. When Nick Kyrgios found himself rested and recuperated after a successful Aussie summer, he simply couldn’t resist the allure.
He accepted a wild card and jetted out to the Coachella Valley—now that he’s here he hopes he can stay a while.
“Just excited to be back at this tournament to be honest,” Kyrgios said after racking up a 6-4, 6-0 win over Sebastian Baez in first-round action on Thursday. “It’s been a couple of years obviously since the pandemic, just taking time off and just getting my mind and body right, my body feels as good as it’s ever felt, so I feel like I’m moving and playing really well, it’s good to be back.”
The 26-year-old Aussie, one of the flashiest, most entertaining athletes of his generation, hasn’t graced tennis fans with his presence as often of late. Since 2020 he has only played 27 singles matches, and his ranking has plummeted all the way down to 132.
But what he lacks in ranking Kyrgios more than makes up for with star power and personality. Whenever the Aussie is entered in a draw—as he is in both singles and doubles this year at Indian Wells—fans line up to get a taste of the Kyrgios experience.
Double Trouble 😈@TKokkinakis/@NickKyrgios continue their winning ways, scooping up a win over Dodig/Melo 7-5, 1-6, 10-2#IndianWells pic.twitter.com/n3jv9HFKWN
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 12, 2022
Thankfully for those who love to watch Kyrgios’ unique brand of jaw-dropping athleticism and artistry, the former quarterfinalist is back to 100 percent fitness and ready to put on a show.
“My left knee was just really bad for about a year and a half,” Kyrgios told a gathering of reporters on Thursday evening. “I wasn’t able to get to a point where I was even 60 percent. Played all of last year basically going out to matches with five or six painkillers… I just wasn’t able to get the maintenance and the tender love and care that my knee needed to be as good as it is now.”
Kyrgios, who faces Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in second-round action on Saturday, says the uptick in fitness is allowing him to play without limits for the first time in a long time.
“Physically I feel not hindered anymore, with movement. Tonight I was running for drop shots, a lot of movement side to side, I can slide again with no pain, on my serve I can land with no pain, it’s just like I was able to play before but it was something in my mind that I was feeling, it was something that was definitely weighing my game down.”
A New Lease on Life
Formerly a brash bad boy and a magnet for controversy, Kyrgios has shed much of the angst that fueled his oft-antagonistic relations with media and peers over the years. These days he is, as he puts it, “more comfortable in his own skin” and eager to focus on the positives in his life.
His evolution has been impressive on many levels. Some players work extremely hard on fine-tuning their tennis game, but Kyrgios, whose game flows freely from him as if he was born to flick insane winners and hammer down aces, works harder on himself. That hard work appears to be paying off.
“Mentally I feel the best I’ve ever felt to be honest,” he said, slipping into his trademark relaxed posture behind the mic. Kyrgios was asked if his newfound health had made him reconsider his future and what is possible on court this season.
“I’m not thinking forward, I take it day by day, that’s my process, I wake up and try to be positive and try to be better every day,” he said. “But as for goals, for me it’s hard sometimes to just wake up in a positive mindset. That’s a win for me.
Motto for the year 🖊💕@NickKyrgios #IndianWells pic.twitter.com/S2RjBqTN7j
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 11, 2022
“I’m not going to say that I’m going to win Indian Wells, or that I’m trying to make the semifinals again at Miami. If I do that it’s great, but I’ve got those normal human issues that I’m trying to overcome every day, and then try and play a bit of tennis on the side. I seem to have found that balance at the moment, I’m happy.”
Kyrgios’ past struggles have been well-documented, both by the media and by himself. But now that he’s bolted over some big hurdles and taken the reins of his career in his hands, he continues to focus on his mental health, knowing that it is the key to being the player—and person—he wants to be.
“I mean look, I’ve spoken about it a lot,” he said. “I was really struggling and I wasn’t happy. I was always listening to what other people wanted me to do. The tennis world, mainly, wanted me to be a certain player. I was just trying to be something that I wasn’t for so many years and it just put me in a dark place.”
“Then one day I looked in the mirror and said ‘Look this isn’t the kind of person I’m trying to be’ and now I’m just a completely different person. I’m just comfortable in my own skin, I’m not trying to please anyone, I’m not trying to be anyone else.
“I’m Nick Kyrgios. I just go out there and play and have fun. If I win I win, If I lose I lose and life’s good.”