Nick Kyrgios’s bromance with Novak Djokovic is official, and he says the experience of contesting a first major final against the “god” has made him feel he finally belongs at the highest level of tennis.
And losing was not necessarily the worst thing for the Australian maverick, who said he “would have struggled with motivation” had he reached the sport’s pinnacle by winning Wimbledon on Sunday.
After close to a decade of unfulfilled potential and grand slam campaigns that never progressed past the quarter-finals, Kyrgios produced some of his finest play throughout a Wimbledon offensive which culminated in a compelling four-set final defeat to seven-time champion Djokovic.
“I’ve got that under my belt now – a Wimbledon finalist,” Kyrgios said. “I can kind of draw from that experience. I felt like I belong. My game has always been there but I’ve just kind of put it together a little bit these couple of weeks.
“It’s taken me 10 years – almost 10 years – in my career to finally get to the point of playing for a grand slam and coming up short, but my level is right there.
“You look at what Novak has done to some other opponents, and it’s not a good feeling. But I’m right there. I’m not behind the eight ball at all. I played a slam final against one of the greatest of all time, and I was right there.
“I came out in the first set and I looked like I was the one who had played in a lot of finals. I thought I dealt with the pressure pretty well.”
There was some archetypal Kyrgios drama, including rants at his own box, the umpire and a high-profile crowd featuring Tom Cruise and a set of royal dignitaries including William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and son Prince George.
Kyrgios complained to the chair umpire about one vocal spectator “who looks like she’s had 700 drinks, bro”.
Asked after the match if he needed to improve his composure, Kyrgios said: “I think the other 126 players in the draw could improve their composure.
“But at times out there, obviously I was getting angry a bit because I just looked at it as, you win this tournament, you become the tennis immortal.”
After Kyrgios won the first set convincingly, the pressure of the past fortnight bubbled over as Djokovic read his opponent’s game and settled in for the fight.
“He is a bit of a god, I’m not going to lie,” Kyrgios said on centre court of his long-time nemesis, with whom he has recently patched things up, to the extent that the pair even set up a dinner date side bet on the eve of this final.
Djokovic returned the praise, saying: “OK, it’s officially a bromance. This is the start of a wonderful relationship between us.”
Kyrgios plans to take some time to recover before the US Open, which begins on 29 August.
“I feel like there’s so much weight on my shoulders all the time when I step out on the tennis court,” he said. “Now it’s just released and I feel amazing.
“This is the best I’ve felt the two weeks … I just felt so much pressure. There’s so much, like, anxiety, pressure to do things or achieve things. If I don’t do well, like it’s just so much.
“I feel like my fire’s been lit this whole year. I’ve obviously met a lot of amazing people this year who have just given me extra motivation.
“If I had won today, I would have struggled with motivation because I’ve been told my entire life winning Wimbledon is the ultimate achievement.
“I feel like if I had won that grand slam I would have really struggled because I’d have achieved the greatest pinnacle in tennis.”