During ESPN’s telecast of a men’s third round match won by 28-year old Ukrainian Illya Marchenko in a shortened three sets due to frustrating but talented Aussie Nick Kyrgios retiring due to a hip injury at Ashe Stadium, John McEnroe blasted the 16th seed.
With both John and younger brother Patrick McEnroe referencing Kyrgios’ lack of a coach or trainer, each questioned his commitment. The 21-year old remains a polarizing enigma with the potential to be a top 5 player capable of winning a major. They also made sure to mention a recent hard court tournament in Washington he was forced to pull out of due to the same injury. However, it didn’t stop Johnny Mac from some big criticism of Australia’s top ranked player.
“If you don’t want to be out there, don’t do it anymore,” McEnroe stated following Kyrgios’ injury that forced him to withdraw trailing the 63rd ranked Marchenko two sets to one 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Kyrgios received two treatments by a trainer including one between sets. His lateral movement was definitely an issue in the final two sets. The injury limited his mobility during extended rallies. He tried to go for broke, hitting harder from the baseline to keep points short. But Marchenko was able to extend rallies and hit winners or draw errors from a wounded Kyrgios. He had never before been past the second round in any grand slam before this year’s U.S. Open. Now, he’ll play Stan Wawrinka in the Round of 16. The third seed needed five sets and saved two match points to overcome unseeded Brit Daniel Evans.
“I feel sorry for Nick,” a pleased Marchenko said during an on court post match interview.
“But it’s a dream come true. A win is a win and a win here on Ashe is a very special feeling for me. … I cannot explain how happy I am.”
While Marchenko has the chance of a lifetime to make his first ever slam quarterfinal, a frustrated Kyrgios explained to reporters that he felt the hip injury and got through his first two matches. He didn’t drop a set entering last night. He served 11 aces to win the first set 6-4. Altogether, he had 18 and only four double faults. However, a crucial drop of serve on some poor shots allowed Marchenko to break and then hold serve to level the match.
By then, Kyrgios wasn’t always able to give his all every point. It’s easy to critique due to his history. He has a reputation for sometimes retiring due to injuries. There have also been moments during big matches where tennis analysts have questioned his tactics.
The biggest takeaway from Kyrgios’ disappointment was that both McEnroes wondered if he’s training as hard as the other remaining 16 men in the Round of 16. Without a coach or trainer, it’s easy to question his commitment. However, you can’t deny his talent. He has the capability to beat almost anyone.
It was in 2014 at Wimbledon when a young teenage phenom upset Rafael Nadal with relative ease, advancing to his first ever major quarterfinal. It was during that same tournament where as a wildcard he rallied from two sets down to stun Richard Gasquet by saving nine match points. Kyrgios was eliminated in four sets by Milos Raonic. The following year, he also made the quarters at the Australian Open, becoming the first male teenager to make two slam quarters since Roger Federer. Andy Murray ousted him in straights. It was also Murray who took out Kyrgios in the fourth round at this year’s Wimbledon en route to winning his second trophy at the All England Club.
For the year, Kyrgios has had his most successful season. He’s 33-13 and will move up to a career high number 15 in the ATP rankings despite the loss to Marchenko. He won his first two ATP titles including Atlanta where he bested hometown hero John Isner in two tiebreaks. Kyrgios also won in France sweeping Gasquet, Tomas Berdych and former 2014 U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic in straights.
Looking back, Andre Agassi had all the talent in the world when he first came up. At a similar age, one of America’s best players was making deep runs at the French Open and U.S. Open. Even though he fell short losing a pair of grand slam finals as a teenager, Agassi was also criticized for not always giving his best effort. Back then, he was known for tanking sets. He also lost to opponents he was favored to beat. Most notably Andres Gomez in the 1990 French Open Final. Then underdog Pete Sampras swept him in three sets at the ’90 U.S. Open. A year later, he fell short against rising American star Jim Courier. Another final at Roland Garros he was expected to win.
Shockingly, Agassi’s first slam came at Wimbledon in ’92. It took until he was 22 to finally break through. In only his second appearance on grass, he went through a tough draw that included John McEnroe, Boris Becker and then needed five sets to beat Goran Ivanisevic for the title. Interestingly, he again took a downturn before rising up to win his second major in ’94 at the U.S. Open. At the time, he was unseeded. Agassi became the first unseeded man to win the Open, defeating Michael Stich in the final.
The difference for Agassi was hiring Brad Gilbert as coach. Their partnership resulted in him reaching number one in 1995. He won more slams eventually completing the career grand slam by capturing the French Open in ’99, rallying from two sets down to beat Andrei Medvedev. His career had peaks and valleys due to a bad wrist and the later reveal in his book that he used crystal meth.
Not everyone is cut out of the same cloth. With Kyrgios, he shows emotion and sometimes curses. He’s very moody. At times, he makes the game look easy with scintillating shots like the unreal backhand slice drop shot winner around the net on the full run against Marchenko. Unfortunately, there are times where he leaves you wanting more. With maturity, he can reach his full potential. The ball’s in his court.