MELBOURNE, Australia – He may have fallen into four fascinating sets for world number one Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of Australian Openbut local hope Nick Kyrgios was responsible for inspiring his nation and the rest of the world during his time in Melbourne park.
The 23rd seed, who lost to Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) on Monday, made a generous promise before the tournament, saying it would donate $ 200 a every ace that served during the Australian tennis summer. Kyrgios had already drawn 69 aces after making the announcement at the ATP Cup in Brisbane and won 100 in Melbourne – the largest number of players in four rounds -, totaling AU $ 33,800 for forest fire relief.
Kyrgios' generosity reached the United States, with Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, equaling the Australian's promise. One of Kyrgios' sponsors, Grill & # 39; d – an Australian fast-food chain – also promised to match the donation, while Australian betting company Sportsbet promised to donate AU $ 1,000 for the ace served during the Australian Open.
Together, Kyrgios, Nowitzki, Sportsbet and Grill raised an impressive AU $ 201,400 through the Australian's aces, with countless others also participating in their own personal donations based on Kyrgios' great service game.
But in addition to its own contribution, the number 26 in the world was also the catalyst for the night of Rally for Relief. He featured several of the game's biggest names, who donated their time, efforts and money to raise nearly $ 5 million to help fight fires and rebuild the country after Australia's worst forest fire season in living memory.
Contributors included Nadal and six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer, which together offered AU $ 250,000. Great names Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova also dug deep for AU $ 25,000 each, while Serena Williams donated his entire AU $ 65,500 prize for winning the ASB Classic in Auckland.
But maybe it was German Alexander Zverev who made the world stand up and pay attention by declaring that he would be betting AU $ 10,000 for each victory during his race at the Australian Open. Not only that, but he would promise every penny of the AU $ 4.12 million cash prize if he won the tournament.
Even tennis legend and ESPN commentator John McEnroe announced they would send AU $ 1,000 the way to the cause of all the sets that Kyrgios won after their first round win over Lorenzo Sonego. The Australian mercurial won seven sets, adding another AU $ 7,000 to the kitten.
Frankly, there were so many players, coaches, organizations like the ATP and WTA tours and tennis personalities who made generous donations that trying to name everyone would be a disservice to the underdog.
There is, of course, nothing to say that these companies, players and legends of the past would not have entered the pockets without Kyrgios being the first to advance, but the pain and emotion conveyed in the Canberra native's voice as they announced their goal for the summer were the following: real and as raw as we've seen from him.
The wave of support for Kyrgios and his broader idea was immediate and powerful, and the seriousness with which he played tennis during his first week in Melbourne was just as refreshing and frightening. The potential to be great still exists, and finding passion for the game can only be good for tennis.
Rafael Nadal paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after the basketball legend was killed in a helicopter crash.
Against Nadal, and needing to retreat in the fourth set to remain in the game, Kyrgios showed maturity and determination not seen in his roller coaster career so far. It is not surprising that he stepped back and took advantage of the tie before finally winning the 19-time Grand Slam winner.
This year, something is different, as he said before the Australian Open. He's playing for much more than just personal glory. The tennis brand that a disinterested Kyrgios plays comfortably would place him among the top 10 players in the world.
There is also no shame in being number one in the world, especially after fighting for a five-set epic in the previous game against the 16th Russian Karen Khachanov.
And while Kyrgios was understandably optimistic at his press conference after the defeat to Nadal, he admitted that he learned a lot about himself in the past two weeks, at the end of his crusade.
"I feel like I've progressed as a human. As a tennis player, I don't care so much," he said. "I always had a good perspective. If anything [the pledge] fed me and made me play more. [The bushfires] are still going, everything is still going.
"I mean, the last month for me has been very hectic, very emotional. I am very tired. I want to try to continue helping where I can."
The challenge for Kyrgios is to maintain this high level of play, the behavior on the court greatly improved and the passion for the game throughout the year.
Having a reason to fight has been the best thing for him, and although on paper it is the exit from the fourth round, the result in Melbourne has been much more for one of the most polarizing names in tennis.
Perhaps, just maybe, it is the turning point that many hope for.