Nick Kyrgios has made the startling admission that his motivation for tennis is normally ‘pretty low’, except for when he’s in a team environment like the ATP Cup.
A shadow of the player who had racked up a 3-0 singles record and a decisive doubles win at the teams tournament, the Kyrgios steam train was derailed by Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday night.
‘UTTER MADNESS’: De Minaur stuns with 'insane' display against Nadal
Alex de Minaur then lost a thrilling 4-6 7-5 6-1 match to Rafael Nadal, as the Australians bounced out at the semi-final stage with Kyrgios delivering his poorest match of the tournament.
After the elimination, Kyrgios once again spoke of his love of being around teammates and was seen animatedly cheering on De Minaur during his clash with Nadal.
But he admitted his career (so far) might have been different had he been able to bottle the motivation he feels while playing for his teammates and transferred it to the rest of the tournaments he plays.
When asked if his experience at the ATP Cup would help his form for the rest of the Australian summer, Kyrgios was doubtful.
“Well no, because these boys aren’t with me on the bench when I’m playing individually,” Kyrgios said.
“I don’t know what it is. When I’m playing for myself, I find it hard to get up. My motivation levels are pretty low most of the time but something about these guys and playing for them brings it out of me and I just love it.
“I’m a team player. If I would have I probably would have had a very different six years of my career.”
Kyrgios gutted for Aussie teammates
Kyrgios's 6-1 6-4 defeat had left de Minaur needing an unlikely victory to push the match to a deciding doubles clash.
He said he was gutted after losing to Bautista Agut - but more so because of the hole it put his teammates in.
“Ultimately I don’t really care how I play, I just want to win for the team,” Kyrgios said.
“I was pretty disappointed when I came off.
“As Alex (de Minaur) said, it’s been unbelievable — eight or nine days with the boys. We’ve all won matches, great matches.
“It’s been a lot of fun to have the opportunity to play for Australia and hang out with these boys again was pretty cool.”
Down 5-0 in the opener, the best the world No.29 could do was hold serve to ensure he could start up the second with ball in hand.
A tighter contest ensued early in the second but, when Kyrgios coughed up a break after an ill-advised trip to the net off a second serve, the match was as good as done.
Still, it has been a good Australian Open tune-up for Kyrgios, who had logged an impressive win against world No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas and a heroic doubles win with de Minaur over Great Britain during the tournament.
Spain will play the Novak Djokovic-led Serbia in Sunday night's final after the Serbs beat Russia 3-0 in the other semi-final.