For almost the entire two weeks, Nick Kyrgios looked like he’d finally tamed the beast.
The beast? Himself.
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But right at the final hurdle and the moment Kyrgios desperately needed to keep the lock on the cage, the beast broke out.
Kyrgios battled hard but eventually fell short against Novak Djokovic, going down 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3).
To even get to this deep at Wimbledon — a stage Kyrgios noted he wasn’t “supposed” to — was the sum of the Canberran keeping a relative lid on his behaviour.
Sure, there were wobbles throughout the fortnight of tennis at the All England Club.
But realistically, should we have expected there to be none whatsoever?
If anything, it’s hard to remember a Kyrgios match from recent memory in which he was a squeaky clean, good two-shoes man.
However, when there’s been moments that had tennis fans thinking ‘here we go again’, the 27-year-old proved them wrong.
In his third round encounter against Stefanos Tsitsipas, things threatened to boil over.
It’s no secret the two aren’t on each other’s Christmas card lists, but in a clash that seemed almost destined to bring out the worst in Kyrgios, it was Tsitsipas who imploded.
The World No. 4 smacked a ball into the crowd but revealed he intended to hit Kyrgios, as the latter came back from a set down to win in four sets.
A round of 16 clash against American Brandon Nakashima followed, which Kyrgios triumphed in a five-set thriller.
Once again, it was a calmer, different version of Kyrgios than the one we’d come to expect.
Speaking on The Tennis Podcast, BBC tennis commentator David Law noted that the Aussie just seemed to be “in a good place” for the duration of the match.
“It was like another human being had taken to the court than the one against Stefanos Tsitsipas,” Law said.
“He seemed to play controlled tennis. It was five sets but it didn’t feel like five sets. It felt like a straight sets win.
“He just always seemed like he was in a good place in the match and there were no histrionics.”
Fellow Tennis Podcast co-host Matt Roberts agreed, describing how he felt the “wheels were going to come off” but was pleasantly surprised when they didn’t.
“It was almost about to get dicey,” Roberts said.
“He tanked that game and he said he did that to get in Nakashima’s head and I believe him.
“But I felt like maybe it was a tank coming and the wheels were going to come off. But he got it together quickly, saved some break points at the start of the fifth and knuckled down and played a really good fifth set.”
A straight sets victory over Cristian Garin in the quarter-finals set up a semi-final clash against Rafael Nadal, but the Spaniard withdrew due to a serious abdominal injury to gift Kyrgios a walkover victory in his first Grand Slam singles final.
All roads led to Novak Djokovic on Centre Court, an occasion that Kyrgios could prepare all he wanted for but would become a different prospect altogether once the first serve of the game is thundered down.
Yet, for the start of the match, Kyrgios was a different character entirely.
As The Telegraph’s Oliver Brown noted, “for a little over an hour, he (Kyrgios) had, by his standards, behaved as decorously as a page boy, his only theatrical outburst coming when he chased down a Novak Djokovic drop shot for an outrageous angled winner.”
All of a sudden, things changed and as painfully as it sounds, Kyrgios reverted back to his firebrand self.
It was a multitude of issues that didn’t even take place on the court itself that caused the Canberran to see red.
Firstly, there was a spectator protesting on behalf of Peng Shuai that was escorted out.
Kyrgios claimed in the his post-match press conference that he wasn’t distracted by it nor did he really notice exactly what was going on, but it was the first straw placed on the camel’s back.
Then, a woman in the crowd exclaimed “come on, Nick” and things rapidly took a turn for the worse.
Kyrgios hit out at chair umpire Richard Liechtenstein for failing to control a supposedly rowdy woman that talked to him during and between points.
“She’s distracting me when I’m serving, in a Wimbledon final, there is no bigger occasion,” Kyrgios said to Liechtenstein.
“I told you which one, I said that she was calling out in the middle of the point.”
When asked to point out which exact spectator it was, Kyrgios replied: “The one in the dress. The one who looks as if she has had about 700 drinks, bro. She’s drunk out of her mind. That’s acceptable in a Wimbledon final?”
Midway through the second set, Kyrgios turned his crosshairs from the supposedly intoxicated woman to his own team in his player’s box.
In his first outburst, Kyrgios was perplexed as to why he felt a need to ask them to cheer him on.
“Why don’t you say something,” Kyrgios said.
“Does it get any bigger or what? You want a bigger one, it’s not big enough for you? There’s no bigger match. Well done guys, I can’t do anything. Do you f***ing care or what?”
More tirades at his own team followed, but all elements combined for one big bang in a moment Brown described, it “crystallised the unravelling” as Kyrgios “allowed this peripheral noise to nourish the demons in his head.”
The Australian couldn’t have been in a better position: early in the third set, Kyrgios was up 40-0 and on his serve.
But, as Djokovic describes, he had to wait for the opportune moment to strike, like a snake hidden in the bushes.
“I wanted to play every point regardless of being 40-0 down,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference.
“I just wanted to practice getting his serves back and eventually wait for the opportunity. And it was presented.
“He played a couple of loose points, double fault on deuce, started talking to his box. Then I felt maybe that’s the moment where I could break his serve, which happened.
“It was a huge momentum shift I think because up to that point, we were quite even. Two sets to one up, things are looking slightly different.”
Kyrgios roared back to life in the fourth set to take things to a tie-break, but couldn’t do enough to take the match into a fifth set as Djokovic prevailed for his seventh Wimbledon title.
In his post-match press conference, the beaten foe remarked at Djokovic’s world-class levels of composure, an asset that puts daylight between the good and the great in tennis.
The Serb was appreciative of Kyrgios’ praise, but also noted that it was perhaps his greatest weapon against the 27-year-old, more than any of his actual tennis game.
“Obviously thankful to him for praising my composure and I knew that probably was one of the key elements today in order to win against him,” Djokovic said.
“Not that he’s not composed, but he has never played in a Wimbledon final.
“We know that also he has his ups and downs in a match and in my experience playing in this kind of occasion could decide or help to my advantage. That’s what happened, really.
“That 40-0 game, he would probably be very upset with himself for losing that game. I didn’t win it, he lost that game with his unforced errors. I stayed there, pushed him to the limit and got the reward.”
There were also outbursts from Kyrgios at his team members and the umpire over a woman who had consumed “700 drinks”, signs that he perhaps reverted to type when he had to avoid doing so at all costs.
Tennis great John McEnroe echoed a similar sentiment to Djokovic and felt Kyrgios squaring the blame at his nearest and dearest was deflecting from the true issue at hand.
“In a way he beat himself,” McEnroe said.
“I don’t get that part (getting angry with his own entourage). I get that he’s burning off nerves and steam. Maybe they should all go and file out. Maybe that would actually do something.
“It’s their fault at set all, four all, 40-0!? He lost the game because of them.”
Kyrgios doesn’t promise to be on his best behaviour, simply because it’s a promise that he cannot keep.
But having had a first-hand glimpse at what’s needed to win a Grand Slam singles final, will we see a change to his ways?
Time will tell, but at least now he has a blueprint on what it takes, how to act and how to prepare.
He just has to tame the beast for 14 days again to overcome his fatal flaw.