- The Washington Times
Sunday, August 7, 2022

It’s the Summer of Nick, no matter what continent or court the most interesting player in tennis sets foot on.

After appearing at his first Grand Slam final last month at Wimbledon, Nick Kyrgios backed up the roll he’s been on by winning his second Citi Open title Sunday, 6-4, 6-3, over Yoshihito Nishioka.

“It’s a reflection of the last six months of how hard I have been working,” Kyrgios said. “I’m just really happy to continue the form after Wimbledon. I think you have got a small window after a Grand Slam that people kind of fear you before they step out on the court.”

“I feel like I made the most of it this week.”

It’s his seventh-career ATP Tour title, and first since winning here in 2019. He becomes one of only ten men to win multiple D.C. tournament titles, joining the likes of Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, and Jimmy Connors. Kyrgios wrote his own Citi Open history later Sunday, when he teamed with American Jack Sock to win the men’s doubles title - the first sweep of those titles by one person in tournament history.

“I’m extremely proud of myself and my team. It was a really, really good week. It was hard-fought.”

The enigmatic Aussie did it in his signature way: Behind one of the most powerful, untouchable serves in the game today. He was not broken the entire tournament — 65 games served, 65 games won — with his first serves routinely touching 130 mph.

It’s just one part of his game that has rounded into championship form, much like the man himself.

“I feel as if I’m a lot older, a lot more mature, and I feel like when you play on the tour and you age and you get older, you realize you shouldn’t be taking these things for granted, the way you’re feeling, the way your body feels,” Kyrgios said.

He‘s admitted to refocusing his training beginning about eight months ago after the Australian Open. Kyrgios also mentioned how much of a role his girlfriend, Costeen, has played in those efforts, and how he has learned to tune out the haters, whether they be tennis commentators on television or those who remain faceless behind a keyboard on social media.

“I don’t care about what people say about my tennis, like always disrespectful to the sport, all this, all that,” Kyrgios said. “I know that deep down that I try really hard to do it my own way. I know that I inspire millions of people, and I’m just playing for them.”

Just like Kyrgios’ five opponents this week, Nishioka had no answers against the serve. Twelve of them were aces to go along with 32 winners in the match. 

“I think he has the best service on tour, No. 1,” Nishioka said. “It’s not just service. Service game. It’s I think most tough to break his service game on the tour.”

Kyrgios played just as well defending in the return game, especially on the Japanese’s second serve, winning 55% of those points. After being down love-40 in against Nishioka’s serve in the first game of the second set, Kyrgios fought back to deuce and broke him in a dominant set, leading to the victory.

It was a week for Nishioka that was filled with upsets on the way to the final. The 26-year-old beat four-straight seeded Citi Open opponents, including top-seeded and world No. 8 Andrey Rublev in the semifinal, to reach his first ATP 500-level final.

“Couldn’t figure out how to beat Kyrgios today,” Nishioka said. “But, you know, I try my best [with] what I can do today, and then still he was playing better than me, which [makes it a] very tough day.”

Kyrgios will move on to play next in the National Bank Open in Canada, and later this month in the U.S. Open. But it’s Washington that’s left an indelible mark on his heart over the years.

“I love Washington. It’s always been really good to me,” Kyrgios said. “I felt like last year it’s not the showing that I wanted to have. I wanted to always remember this place as somewhere that I have achieved some pretty high things and I want to keep it that way.”

The L’Enfant design of wide avenues and plenty of greenspace remind the Australian of his hometown and fellow national captial, Canberra. At his current rate of winning titles in the District, he‘s eventually due to get something here named after him. Or, at least, a vacation home.

“When I’m in Washington, I kind of feel like it’s home,” Kyrgios said. “It’s not as busy as, say, New York or Atlanta or Miami.”

“It’s quiet, a lot of greenery. Feels like home.”

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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