Rival exposes confronting Kyrgios lie
JUST like it does before the Australian Open, the Nick Kyrgios hype machine goes into overdrive heading into Wimbledon each year.
Ever since his stunning debut at the All England Club in 2014 when he went on a giant-killing spree that included the scalps of Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal to reach the quarter-finals, the expectations on the young Aussie have risen when the year's third major rolls around.
Strong performances in 2015 and 2016 - when he reached the round of 16 - added to the belief the grand slam played on his favourite surface was Kyrgios's to win sooner rather than later.
In 2018 talk of Kyrgios's potential grand slam breakthrough only grew louder when he reached the semi-finals of lead-up tournaments in Stuttgart and at Queen's in London. On those occasions it took Roger Federer and last year's Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic to stop him.
Everyone knows Kyrgios has the talent to beat the world's best - as was expressed by tennis legend Boris Becker before this year's tournament got underway.
"On a good day, he should win the tournament really. He's got everything," Becker said.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said the way Kyrgios had his explosive serve working in tune-up events meant he was capable of going deeper than ever before.
"There's no reason why he couldn't have a really good run here," Murray said.
Even the man himself was optimistic about his chances, confident of making it into the second week, but any dreams of holding the trophy aloft next Sunday came crashing down when Kei Nishikori defeated him in the third round in straight sets 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.
A meltdown in the opening set - which he lost in just 16 minutes, sparking accusations of tanking - set the tone for Kyrgios and although he showed plenty of grit to fight back from a break down in the second to force a tiebreaker, he was no match for the World No.28, a man he is yet to beat.
Becker and Murray's pre-tournament praise came with caveats: Yes, Kyrgios could win the whole thing, but only if he was able to sustain his best efforts for two weeks and continually back up to win the seven matches required to claim a grand slam title.
On Sunday, Nishikori proved Kyrgios doesn't have the stamina to win a major at this point in his career.
The chat about Kyrgios's potential to win Wimbledon - even with the usual caveats - is off the mark. Unfortunately for his supporters, you'd be lying if you said he was capable here and now of winning a major.
"I think now we just officially park the conversation of Nick always drifting into the grand slam contender conversation," SEN tennis expert Brett Phillips said on Monday.
"Mentally and physically, he is not capable right now of playing seven matches in two weeks of grand slam tennis.
"In a gruelling men's tour, he is not ready to be classified as a grand slam contender."
At this stage in his career Kyrgios can knock out grand slam heavyweights, upset higher-ranked opponents and entertain like few others but he can't win a major, at Wimbledon or anywhere else.
This isn't a slight on Kyrgios, it's just his reality.
There are plenty of players incapable of winning slams, especially when you consider the men's tour is still stacked with Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and the 23-year-old is just one of many who fall into that bracket right now.
A loss to Nishikori, save for the diabolical first set, is hardly something to be ashamed about. The Japanese star has had the wood over Kyrgios for his entire career, and he was in the Canberra product's head even before they stepped onto the court, with the young gun describing him as a "nightmare".
After his loss Kyrgios revealed the occasion got to him and he was unable to recover from his early jitters.
"I felt great this morning. Hit the ball fine. As soon as I got out there, I just didn't feel good," he said.
"I was pretty uptight. A lot of nerves. I just struggled with a lot of things today. I just never settled.
"Obviously getting broken first game didn't help me. I just kind of panicked. Everything kind of just went south."
Maybe one day Kyrgios will mature, physically and mentally, to the point where he emerges as a genuine major contender rather than someone who strings three or four destructive displays together before falling down. But to suggest he's already a contender just isn't correct.
For now, the harsh truth is Kyrgios's ceiling doesn't reach as high as that of grand slam champion in waiting.