If someone had to play the Gold Coast in a Hollywood movie, Nick Kyrgios would steal the show.
He drips in bling across the tennis court, is brash and often brutish, but just like Queensland’s coastal strip, it’s his natural assets that have propelled him into pole position.
He deserves to be ranked inside the world’s top 10 tennis players – and would be if Wimbledon points were counted.
But despite that, he is going into the US Open, according to American tennis legend Andy Roddick, as the favourite.
That’s a fair assessment, after his takedown of world No.1 Daniil Medvedev this week.
He’s won 14 of his past 15 singles matches stretching back to that Wimbledon final loss, where we all had our hearts in our mouths, against Novak Djokovic.
“I know I’ve got (Daniil) Medvedev next, which kind of sucks,’’ he said two days ago.
Not any more. Kyrgios is now up 3-1 against the world’s No.1, who incidentally beat Djokovic to become last year’s US Open champion.
It’s a good place to be. But has the latest run been good luck? Or are we seeing a greater maturity from the player, who almost relishes in the title of Tennis Bad Boy.
“Be strong Ma,’’ he scribbled on the cameras after beating Medvedev.
Kyrgios’s mother Norlaila is in hospital, and he’s made no secret of the impact of that or the influence of his family.
“Family over everything,’’ he tweeted soon after the match, and ended it with heart emoji.
Later he explained how difficult it was to play, knowing his family was struggling.
‘‘My mum is in hospital at the moment. My dad hasn’t been very well. My brother just had a baby and I don’t get to be there with my family when normal people would like to be with them,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s hard being from Australia because we can’t travel back and forth. There’s a lot of things people don’t see. They only see me winning, losing, throwing a racquet, doing those things. They don’t really understand the challenges that I face or what people on tour face, what’s going on in their personal lives.’’
Kyrgios has not been shy about the struggles and mental health challenges that have led to judgment on and off the court.
He wears his heart on his sleeve, and has received more fines for his on-court behaviour than any other player in ATP history.
That’s hurt him, because it has affected his game on court, and lost him fans, who relish in the sportsmanship as much as the showmanship, off the court.
But this week Kyrgios showed that he could hold “his s— together’’, as one former tennis star put it.
With his family fighting illness, and a court case hanging over his head, he played like the champ he could be.
No one has ever disputed his talent. Or his drive.
His game, where he unsettled Medvedev with a serve-volley strategy, is an illustration of that.
This time it was Medvedev who cried foul, claiming Kyrgios was being coached from the stands.
The umpire didn’t agree, and Kyrgios did what he does best. Played tennis.
“Today I had a very clean objective of how I was going to play, a lot of serve and volley, a lot of aggressive play from the back, and I executed better than he did. That’s all it came down to,’’ he said.
That form shows Kyrgios, officially ranked 31, is a real threat before the US Open – even though he was quick to explain that a grand slam is very different to other tournaments.
But it also shows what a star he can be when he leaves all the drama he likes back at the hotel, and focuses on the player at the other end of the court.
The showmanship, like the Gold Coast, will always be there for another day.
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