Nick Kyrgios slumped to another disappointing Grand Slam exit with a 7-5 6-1 6-4 defeat to Andy Murray on Centre Court – his sixth consecutive failure to reach a Major quarter-final.
At times, the temperamental Aussie’s effort boarded on pathetic – a grade he awarded himself in the aftermath – as he wildly thrashed with groundstrokes and randomly charged to the net to keep exchanges brief. It was bizarre, given his ferocious serving in the opening set had forced Murray to 5-5, with only an untimely missed volley proving the difference between a deserved tie-break and a one-set deficit.
Then, the 21-year-old proceeded to down tools. The match became a procession for Murray, who brutally teased his opponent with a flurry of drop shots, as the newly-installed favourite ripped through the remaining two sets.
The coach-less Kyrgios has the talent; that much was evident from the opening set. But his effort and preparation prompted significant criticism – notably, that he played video games in the morning and was spotted watching Lleyton Hewitt in the doubles just two hours before the fourth-round encounter.
Australia's Nick Kyrgios after falling during his match against Great Britain's Andy Murray.
Image credit: Eurosport
Wimbledon great John McEnroe, hardly a stranger to controversy himself, led the criticism.
"I hope he sees the writing on the wall before this gets chronic and irreparable. He's got a lot of thinking to do, a lot of work to do," he said.
He's got to ask himself how badly he wants to become the best player in the world.
A TORN FIGURE
Kyrgios presented a torn figure as he faced up to reporters, declaring he was not sure a coach would accept his mood swings.
"I've previously said, I don't love the sport," he admitted, via Reuters. "But, you know, I don't really know what else to do without it.
"I obviously like playing the game. It's a massive part of my life… One week I'm pretty motivated to train and play. I'm really looking forward to getting out there. One week I'll just not do anything.
"I don't really know a coach out there that would be pretty down for that one," he explained, adding that he simply enjoyed the freedom of not having an adviser.
"Just doing whatever you want, I guess I like it."
"To be honest, I woke up this morning and played computer games. Is that the greatest preparation? I don't know. But it was fun."
Great Britain's Andy Murray with Australia's Nick Kyrgios after winning their match
Image credit: Reuters
IN HIS DEFENCE…
He’s 21. He isn’t the first player to tank when things are going against him; he certainly won’t be the last. Let’s not forget he was playing one of the game’s great returners in Murray, the tournament favourite and semi-local hero. He failed to muster a break point in an opening set in which he had played superbly. Of course your head would drop after losing the first set.
By the time he had processed it, he was down in the second set too. Even if he had reached his maximum level it probably wouldn’t have been enough. Murray was cruising. Would other players not have reacted in the same manner?
Playing video games isn’t ideal preparation, he’s right. Neither is watching a doubles match. But it wasn’t like he was charging around on a 5-a-side pitch – if it helps him relax, so be it. His performance in the first set proved he was ready.
…BUT LET’S NOT LET HIM OFF COMPLETELY
Some of his behaviour, while improving, is completely out of order. You have a responsibility to the fans, who ultimately ensure you generate revenue, to try. That wasn’t the case on Monday.
Much of the frustration stems from the fact he is supremely talented. Unlike typical big servers, he also has a game to match it with brutal groundstrokes backed up by impressive feel at the net. But it's all redundant if your head isn't really in it.
He needs a coach. Someone who can harness his power and audacity, and quell his tantrums and self-pity. If – after giving it his all – he decides he doesn’t love the sport, then fine. Walk away. No harm done. But plodding along, with off-court histrionics taking precedent over his actual performances, is not good for anyone.