For tennis fans, December is the worst month of the year. With the season over and zero tournaments to be played, we are left with Tennis Channel marathons and opportunities to look back at the biggest moments of the 2022 season.
The one benefit of the month is we have the proper time to recap and break down all the results we’ve seen for the past 11 months. In turn, we can begin to make assumptions as to how 2023 will turn out based on a large sample size.
With that in mind, we’re targeting five players for what we’re calling our “2023 Dropshot Network Player Files.” These five players represent the most intriguing of the upcoming season — based on how their 2022’s went and how their storylines project for the season to come.
We’ll start with the Aussie, Nick Kyrgios.
Notable 2022 Results
While Kyrgios reached a career-high ranking of 13 in 2016, 2022 was the most promising and best season of his career.
Nick won only one title (the Citi Open in D.C.), but he reached the final of Wimbledon, the quarters of the US Open and notched wins over Daniil Medvedev (twice), Stefanos Tsitsipas (twice), Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev.
More importantly than the actual results, Kyrgios looked focus and truly serious about the sport of tennis for the first time in his career. Yes, there were some questionable withdrawals (Atlanta?) and some disappointing performances (Cincinnati against Taylor Fritz?) along the way, but it seems as if the Aussie has finally found a way to channel his emotions on the court so they don’t impact his game negatively.
The State of Kyrgios Heading Into 2023
A complex question is the reason Kyrgios is one of the five players chosen for this exercise: Are these results a one-year blimp on the radar, or is he here to stay as a contender on the ATP landscape?
The next step for Nick is obviously winning a major, and what better place to do so than the Australian Open.
But if he’s going to have a chance to capture his coveted first Grand Slam in his home country (or any country for that matter), he’ll have to be able to handle the pressure of expectations.
Kyrgios has always been the center of attention from the media and fans because of his personality, his showmanship on the court and the negative “tennis etiquette” he occasionally brought in the past. But in 2023, there will be a new kind of pressure.
His fans will be expecting victories, tournament titles, deep Grand Slam results and more. He went 37-10 in 2022 for God’s sakes.
That’s new territory for Nick.
For all the changes he’s made in his game and his attitude on the court recently, things got a little dicey when he stepped into a unique stage in the quarterfinals at the US Open.
With Novak Djokovic unable to compete, Rafael Nadal out and Nick coming off a dominant, impressive win over Medvedev, the Aussie became the favorite to win the US Open before his match against Karen Khachanov.
Whether you agree with this or not, Kyrgios didn’t handle that stage all that well. He lacked energy and focus in the opening set. He seemed more concerned about a tweak in his calf than playing the actual match, which even caused ESPN analyst John McEnroe to question whether he was mentally making the injury worse than it actually was.
Kyrgios eventually settled into that match — taking Khachanov to five sets — but his slow start put him in a hole that he couldn’t recover from.
There will be a lot more of those moments in 2023, but the hope (at least for Nick, his team and the fans) is that he approaches those positions with more experience this time around.
Kyrgios Channeling His Emotions
The biggest threat to Kyrgios following up his 2022 in excellent fashion is his emotions.
We all know Kyrgios is one of the most talented tennis players to ever step foot on this Earth. He has a natural-born athleticism and a gift for the game that very few are ever given.
Kyrgios has a wicked forehand, superb backhand and is dangerous at the net. His biggest weapon is his serve, though, as there have even been jokes within the “Serve Bot” community (John Isner and Reilly Opelka in particular) as to whether Kyrgios is a member of their “club.”
What can derail all this for Nick is obviously an injury, but more importantly, letting his game get away from him.
We’ve talked about the added pressure in 2023, but what we haven’t talked about is how Nick has learned to channel his emotions.
In the past, he would chuck his racquet, completely give up on a match or annoy his opponent to no end. Now Nick has a maturity to him where he won’t do that. Instead, he’ll scream at his box, allowing himself to let his anger out, while in turn, not allowing it to affect his game on the court. Sometimes, it even makes him play better.
If Kyrgios can continue to find that outlet for his outbursts, that will be positive news for him in 2023.
What Tournaments Mean the Most to Kyrgios?
I think it’s obvious to say that at this point in his career, Kyrgios is mainly concerned about the majors. He would dream of winning the Grand Slam in his home country, but he produces some of his best results on grass (Wimbledon) and loves New York City (US Open).
Kyrgios has never been one to worry about rankings and how many tournaments he plays in. He travels more than a majority of the non-USA players, and it’s especially a burden on him because of how far Australia is.
That leads me to believe that things won’t change in 2023 in regards to where Kyrgios’ motivation lies most. Obviously everyone wants to win Grand Slams, but Kyrgios will be ultra-focused at all four events, whereas you will see less traveling and occasional withdrawals from the lower-tiered tourneys.
Conclusion to Kyrgios
This is an incredibly important season for Kyrgios as he tries to show that 2022 wasn’t a fluke. He’s talked about retiring early to focus on building a family, so the clock is ticking on him reaching the full potential of his career.
The expectations are especially high from a passionate fanbase, and hopefully that pressure doesn’t negativity affect Nick as he seeks his first-ever Grand Slam title.
You either love or hate Nick (no in between), and that’s how I feel his 2023 season will go: either another incredibly successful step forward, or a total flop (at least compared to the high expectations).