Nick Kyrgios showed his abilities from an early age, reaching two Grand Slam quarter-finals before turning 21. But the Aussie made his biggest charge up the FedEx ATP Rankings by establishing more consistency throughout the 2016 season, with a prime example coming at the Truist Atlanta Open.
The flashy Aussie arrived in Georgia on a two-match losing streak, but he quickly settled into the Atlanta heat and battled hard to win his second ATP Tour title.
“In Marseille, I was unbeatable,” Kyrgios said of his first title earlier in the year. “This week was completely different. I wasn’t playing well at all at the start of the week… I found the right balance. I was competing and had some fun.”
Kyrgios emerged from three-setters in the quarter-finals and semi-finals against Fernando Verdasco and Yoshihito Nishioka, respectively. He then faced a daunting challenge against big-serving home favourite John Isner, who carried a 15-match Atlanta winning streak into the final.
“I knew it was going to be tough from the get-go,” said Kyrgios. “John is still so comfortable on that court. I needed to come up with some special stuff today and it just came down to a couple points here and there. I did all the right things today and stayed calm. I knew I’d have my chance.”
Kyrgios had his back against the wall at the start, facing three break points at 0/40 in his opening service game. Losing any of those points against the American would have been a crushing way to start the match. But the 21-year-old saved them all and settled in from there.
“Returning is very crucial against John,” said Kyrgios. “That serve is world-class. It would have been a completely different story if he got me there.”
Isner saved the two break points he faced, but it was not enough. Kyrgios triumphed 7-6(3), 7-6(4) when the American double faulted on match point. Kyrgios had previously trailed Isner 0-2 in their ATP Head2Head series.
“I go back to that second game of the match,” Isner said. “He came up with really good serves. He’s one of the best servers on the Tour.”
Later in 2016, Kyrgios won his first ATP 500 in Tokyo and reached a career-high No. 13 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
Did You Know?
In the 2016 Atlanta final, Kyrgios won 67 per cent of his second-serve points compared to 39 per cent for Isner.