Rod Laver hasn't been afraid to criticise Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios in the past - but the two-time calendar Grand Slam champion believes he's seen something different over the last six months.
After years of teasing fans with his immense talent, Kyrgios put it all together this year with a thrilling run to the Wimbledon final, as well as a convincing defeat of world No.1 Daniil Medvedev at the US Open.
The Wimbledon final in particular was a massive breakthrough for Kyrgios, his first grand slam final, and Laver believes it's the first time in the 27-year-old's career that he feels he truly belongs at the elite level.
Laver memorably said in 2019 that Kyrgios 'would never learn' how to find the best of himself on the court amid a tumultuous season punctuated by several controversial run-ins with chair umpires.
While Kyrgios hasn't become any less outspoken since then, Laver believes there is now a level of self-assuredness that he hadn't seen in the Canberra-born star before.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Laver said he believed the improvements Kyrgios had made in terms of his ability to maintain focus was 'the greatest thing that happened to him'.
“Kyrgios has all the ability in the world, every shot that you could wish to make,” Laver said.
“He’s probably one of the biggest servers in the game. He’s accurate, he can play under pressure.
“I was thrilled when he reached the final, but he didn’t think he could win Wimbledon. In my mind, I said, ‘Hey, put in your best performance. You may surprise yourself.’
“A month or two later, I said, ‘You can win some of these matches. Why don’t you apply yourself, man?’"
Though Kyrgios missed out on collecting ranking points for Wimbledon after the ATP stripped the tournament of them due to their ban on Russian players, his US Open performance was enough to elevate him to world No.20.
While Laver said he would have liked to see Kyrgios compete at the Laver Cup, he believes the conversation they had after the Wimbledon final had a profound effect on Kyrgios.
“He realised, ‘S***, I am good enough, I can do this,’” Laver said.
“That was the greatest thing that happened to him. Unfortunately, he said that he wanted to go back to Australia and not play in the Laver Cup.
“But he knows that he can play and compete now. Don’t walk on the court thinking, ‘If I get three games, that’s enough.’
“Now he’s thinking, ‘Next year? Wimbledon? You’re going to see a different player.’”
Nick Kyrgios riles up Novak Djokovic fans over Laver Cup post
Though Laver believes Kyrgios will be a different player on court, off the court there are no signs of Kyrgios abandoning his outspoken style off the court.
During last week's Laver Cup and the resulting deluge of tribute to the retiring Roger Federer, Kyrgios couldn't help but poke the bear with his old sparring partner in Novak Djokovic.
The 26-year-old Wimbledon finalist was one of thousands of people across the globe to pay tribute to Federer, who made his last professional appearance playing doubles at the Laver Cup alongside longtime rival and friend Rafael Nadal.
"Novak knows his chance for slams is better now. Rafa is shattered," Kyrgios posted, accompanying the touching image of Federer's farewell with a tearful Nadal in the background.
Tennis fans fumed over Kyrgios' comment, with many claiming it struck a disrespectful tone given the celebration of Federer's achievements.
His comment was an odd one, considering the farewell at the Laver Cup was Federer's sole tour appearance this year after encountering difficulties in recovering from a long-term knee problem.
Federer's renowned 24-year career, in which he won 20 grand slam titles, came to an end alongside Nadal in emotional scenes at the Laver Cup, with Djokovic also spotted tearing up at one stage.
Kyrgios was slammed for his 'audacity' over the post, which left some fans gobsmacked.
"Can’t believe he has the audacity to say this!!! It was such an emotional evening and he thinks saying this is appropriate honestly, what an idiot," one fan posted.
Who is psychologically able to write that? Okay okay/ to be fair, Djoko had a year full of controversy, so I can understand where people are coming from. BUTTTTTTTTTTTTT, I really do think that this person doesn’t understand tennis outside of the courts🎾#FedalForever https://t.co/DFhModhDn8
— Rebeca🌻 (@09rebs12abreu) September 24, 2022
Nobody gonna to be crying when NK retires. Unless they’re tears of joy… https://t.co/FYYpoohaD6
— amy 🦋 (@everythingtaboo) September 24, 2022
The Swiss legend was unable to bring the curtain down on his illustrious career with one final victory, after he and Nadal suffered defeat at the hands of Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
Federer saw his 'dream' finale ruined in a 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 11-9 loss to dampen the spirits of fans at the O2 Arena in London.
The 41-year-old broke down in tears as he embraced his European teammates, including long-time friend and rival Nadal.
However there were staggering scenes when Nadal also burst into tears while sitting alongside Federer.
The Spanish champion appeared to feel the full weight of the emotional scenes as he wept into his hands while Federer farewelled the sport that has given him so much.
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