Novak Djokovic into Wimbledon final where Nick Kyrgios awaits - now fighting fewer demons

The Australian will be the underdog against the six times winner in this year’s Wimbledon final

It is the eve of his first Grand Slam final against Novak Djokovic. Late bloomer Nick Kyrgios is sitting answering questions in an interview room in Wimbledon.

“I don’t know if it’s going to change. There’s definitely times where I hate this sport,” says the 27-year-old. Kyrgios has always had a love-hate relationship with tennis, one that has made him a multimillionaire. Ranked 40th in the world, he is one of the few players in the world where rank bares no relevance to ability.

For the most watched, most talked about player in the Wimbledon draw, Kyrgios hasn’t so much banished demons but this year has learned to live with them.

A few days ago, he posted a picture of himself as a kid with a tennis racket. He did it because it reminded him of who he was and what he might achieve on Sunday, something that as a child he never dreamed of doing. He said he posted the picture because he didn’t think he was supposed to be the person he has become.


He explained it as “an inspiration for any sort of kid who’s kind of been outcasted or just been surrounded by negative headlines or negative clouds or trying to be, like, just being brought down from a lot of different angles.”

Kyrgios has become, over the last two weeks, like a player on a voyage of self-discovery. His first week was fines and spitting fire at spectators and line judges. This week has been a realisation that the accommodations he has made are working.

“I feel like it’s possible to achieve something quite special if you just believe in yourself,” he said. “I never really lost belief in myself. I feel like most people around me at some stage in my life have lost belief that I would ever make a Grand Slam final, doubted me a little bit in my behaviour or just the way I trained. I think everyone, it’s safe to say.

“That’s fine they doubted me. But I never lost belief in myself. I think that’s just a strong message for any kid who doubts himself. Just keep going. Look at that photo, I literally look like Manny from Modern Family.”

But with the Australian it never really is all that simple. On Thursday he was asked about having to face allegations of common assault against model Chiara Passari in an alleged incident in December last year and will fly back to Australia to face court next month. The allegation is that Kyrgios grabbed Passari.

He was asked how he was able to play his best ever Wimbledon with a court appearance hanging over his future.

“I understand you want me to give you the answers. I can’t speak any more on the issue,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve been advised by my lawyers that I’m unable to say anything at this time.” When pressed, he replied. “Do you want me to sound like a broken record.”

Earlier this year he revealed he had suicidal thoughts in 2019. He posted a picture with the marks on his arm where he had self-harmed.

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends. I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone,” he said.

But it is the Krygios fairy tale that continued with Rafa Nadal untypically conceding to an abdomen injury and Krygios making history in becoming the first player to get a bye into a Wimbledon final.

Cameron Norrie’s firecracker performance over the two weeks and on Friday against the defending champion, Djokovic, was proof that decibel levels alone on Centre Court don’t make finalists.

The British number one won the first set 2-6 and rallied the fans. But after the first hour Djokovic, who had not controlled the match, begun to reel in his opponent. Djokovic served for the second set at 5-2 to draw level before closing out the match in just over 90 minutes 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

“We definitely have a bit of a bromance now, which is weird. I think everyone knows there was no love lost for a while there,” said Kyrgios. “I think a Kyrgios-Djokovic final would be mouth-watering. The one thing for sure, whether I win or lose on Sunday, I’m going to be happy. It’s such a great achievement that I thought I’d never be a part of. Especially at 27, I feel this is, like, for me, I just never thought I would be right here.”

It is the 32nd Grand Slam final for six times Wimbledon winner Djokovic, a new all-time men’s singles record and it is the first final for Kyrgios, who has never won a Grand Slam. He may be the under dog but in his coloured life there are also times when he definitely loves his sport.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times