Sport

Former foes Kyrgios and McEnroe bury the hatchet

Team World captain John McEnroe (right) high-fives Australian Nick Kyrgios during the Laver Cup in Prague.
Team World captain John McEnroe (right) high-fives Australian Nick Kyrgios during the Laver Cup in Prague. Michal Kamaryt

FORMER foes Nick Kyrgios and John McEnroe might have just discovered they're a match made in tennis heaven - and all it took was a little quality time together.

Two of tennis' most combustible figures have never really seen eye-to-eye but a significant shift occurred during the weekend's inaugural Laver Cup team event.

Tennis legend and now pundit McEnroe has certainly given Kyrgios credit where it's due over the years, labelling him the most exciting and talented young player in the game. But, never one to bite his lip, the seven-time major winner also hasn't held back in his criticism, blasting the Australian repeatedly over tanking, "bonehead" behaviour, mental weakness and effectively wasting his talent.

Kyrgios hasn't taken the criticism too kindly.

"Ask Johnny Mac, he knows everything," Kyrgios bristled sarcastically following his exit from this year's Australian Open, referencing another accusation of tanking from the American.

In June, McEnroe suggested he'd probably be a perfect coach for Kyrgios, given their similar "wacky" personalities.

"He's dreaming," was Kyrgios' blunt response.

Fast forward three months and Kyrgios has changed his tune considerably based on his experience in Prague.

As Team World captain, McEnroe looked to bring the best out of 22-year-old Kyrgios, who pushed Roger Federer to the limit in what proved to be the event decider.

Kyrgios, a player who thrives in the team environment, was close to tears following the loss, later explaining he felt he had let his teammates down.

"When I'm playing for myself, you know, sometimes I don't put the greatest effort in when I play on my own. When I play with these guys and I'm playing for something as a team," Kyrgios said.

"It's the same in Davis Cup. I'm playing for the country, playing for the guys on the bench.

"I know that every single one of these guys up here has put effort into this week, whether that's practice, supporting other guys.

"You know, Johnny Mac supporting us, P-Mac (Patrick McEnroe) helping us with everything. We all bought in as a team. That's why it hurt. I gave everything I had. I came short, and I knew that we were going to be favourites going to the doubles. That was in the back of my mind.

"It just hurt because I knew I didn't want to let these guys down. I wanted to come through but I didn't. Yeah, that's why I got a bit emotional out there."

 

John McEnroe (top) looks on as Nick Kyrgios receives treatment at the Laver Cup.
John McEnroe (top) looks on as Nick Kyrgios receives treatment at the Laver Cup. Petr David Josek

McEnroe must have been impressed by his first experience working with Kyrgios up close and the new-found respect would be mutual, with Kyrgios relishing working under a mentor he could identify with like few others.

"It's been awesome. You know, I asked him - I actually told him - I was, like, 'you don't have the personality that I would have thought played tennis'. I asked him 'why did you play?'," Kyrgios said.

"He said: 'You know, it's the same reason you play. It's because we are better at it than everything else that we do.'

"I think we can relate on many things. He's been a great help for me.

"I think he actually understands me, gets where I'm coming from on most things. It's pretty refreshing having someone that actually understands where I'm coming from."

McEnroe raised a few eyebrows with the tough love he dished out courtside at times to stars including Kyrgios and American Jack Sock. At one stage microphones captured him criticising Kyrgios' decision not to put away a volley.

"You f***ing take that in the air ... you want to be No.5 in the world?," McEnroe barked, to a seemingly receptive Kyrgios.

It's the kind of no-nonsense treatment many feel Kyrgios could benefit from day-to-day - back on the lonely ATP tour - especially from a figure he admires, respects and, crucially, identifies with.

Kyrgios has reportedly been happy working with Sebastien Grosjean in recent months but there are hints it might not quite be a perfect match. The partnership certainly hasn't yielded any more consistency in Kyrgios' results. The player also suggested this month the Frenchman "deserved to work with someone more dedicated than me".

Maybe Kyrgios is content to stick it out, keep riding the rollercoaster and continue "not really caring" about tennis.

Or maybe a fire has been lit in Prague. Maybe McEnroe was spot on when he suggested back in June he was the "perfect nutcase" to work with the Australian and, after a little quality time together, Kyrgios now knows it too.

Topics:  john mcenroe laver cup nick kyrgios

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