Nick Kyrgios loves New York. Of course he does. The city that never sleeps is the ideal fit for the teenaged showman whose remarkable senior tennis awakening came recently on the sedate lawns of the All England Club. Which leads us to the question of his favourite grand slam and an answer that is surprising, but, well, really not: the US Open.
"I know I can't say that," Kyrgios laughs, when mock-challenged about the traditions and prestige of Wimbledon, and the friendly call of his home major at Melbourne Park. "I know it's tough to say that, and I really do like the Australian Open, but just everything about the US Open, I just love it.
"No matter what time it is, it's always busy, (there's) celebrities everywhere, and the food court's unbelievable. I just love the way it runs. The surface is really good, it suits my game well, it's a fast hardcourt, there's just a lot of stuff going on."
Then there is Manhattan. Last Tuesday, Kyrgios was at a concert by rapper Drake in Central Park. On Wednesday, the basketball junkie was tweeting from courtside as the US played Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden. "Unbelievable," he says. "I just walk around. If I want to get a coffee, I get a coffee, if I just want to eat, I can eat. I don't know, I can just do anything."
Which, it would seem, makes the scene of the year's final grand slam a perfect match for his extroverted personality, and flamboyant power game. "Yeah. Sometimes it might get a bit too full-on, but I like it when there's a lot of things going on," he says. "If it's too quiet, it just gets a bit boring. I'm really looking forward to being there again."....
"When do we get worried? Yeah, good question. Probably not yet," says Larkham of his charge's ongoing physical issues. "His body is probably not quite ready to play back-to-back five matches, six matches, in a row at this intensity, and the intensity that he played at Wimbledon. So I think in another year or so if he continues to get injuries we'd probably get worried."
Post-Wimbledon, the pair collaborated for a three-week training block, in which a priority was to work on Kyrgios' ability to win points when stripped of two of his weapons. "I believe he's got a top-10 serve and a top-10 return, but when the point becomes neutral that's probably the area where he needs to improve the most," says Larkham, noting the ability of the world's best to excel at "what we call out-of-the-hand points – so without the serve – and Nick needs to be able to play with those guys for long periods, over four hours, if he's going to beat them. So that was one of the huge themes of the training block ... to play a lot of points, and repeat efforts, without the serve involved."
Movement was another focus; both generally, and forwards, for a youngster still building endurance in his legs, and needing to shorten the points in long matches. There are few weaknesses, no huge holes opposition coaches can target, says Larkham. "But I think some guys feel that if they get in the rally with Nick, then they can move him, and they can expose that a little bit, so that's what we're working on."
The pair have a comfortable, often-unspoken, connection, Kyrgios likening Larkham to the gutters of a tenpin bowling lane that stop the ball swerving too wildly off-course – "just keeping me on track and making sure I'm doing everything professional, and making sure I'm not slacking off here or there". The coach chuckles at the analogy. "Yeah, I've probably been doing that since he was 10 years old, to be honest," he quips. "He's the kind of kid that can slip off the rails occasionally, so I suppose that has been a big role of mine, just to keep his feet grounded, just keep him working hard day-in, day-out, and keep him on track."
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