PARIS (Reuters) - Nick Kyrgios can become the best tennis player in the world without gruelling trips to the gym and endless hours of practice — providing he keeps playing doubles, former world number one Mats Wilander told Reuters on Thursday.
“When you serve like he does, it’s not like you need to go and bench press,” the Swede smiled.
“I love that he is playing doubles here. It shows that he wants to play tennis, and that is great news for the whole of the sport.”
Kyrgios suffered a second round exit in Paris, losing 5-7 6-4 6-1 6-2 to South African Kevin Anderson. But instead of heading for the exit, he is competing in the doubles with fellow Australian Jordan Thompson, and in the long run that may play to his strengths, Wilander said.
“He obviously loves the team environment. And I mean, whatever crazy things he may or may not have done, you go into the locker room and all the players like him. He’s a popular guy.
“And so playing doubles is going to be good for him. Instead of practicing and hitting, shall we say, lower quality balls, he is going to be competing in matchplay.
“He isn’t going to want to let his partner down. The tennis he plays in doubles is going to be high quality intense tennis. And that can only be good for him.”
The 22-year-old Kyrgios has polarised opinion with characters — including John McEnroe — questioning his commitment and the effort he puts in sometimes.
But Wilander said his entering the doubles showed his commitment.
“It shows he wants to hit tennis balls, and it shows he wants to compete,” he said. “I wouldn’t question his motivation to play and to compete.”
Kyrgios missed the tail end of last season when he was suspended by the ATP Tour and fined for “tanking” a match and insulting fans.
The ATP said Kyrgios had been punished for “conduct contrary to the integrity of the game” after an investigation into his behaviour in a second-round loss to Mischa Zverev at the Shanghai Masters, leading to him working with a sports psychologist.
(THis version of the story has been changed with a new headline, no change in text)
Editing by Pritha Sarkar