On court after losing to Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios told Sue Barker that reaching his first Wimbledon final had not whetted his appetite for more. Far from it.
He was utterly exhausted after his two weeks in SW19 and he just wanted to go on holiday.
An hour and a half later in the main interview room, he told the world’s media that had he beaten Djokovic and won his first Grand Slam title, it might have killed his motivation stone dead.
And as he talked, he explained that he actually felt better now – as the defeated finalist – than he had since he got here.
He is a complex man, is Nick. But he is also one of the most gifted tennis players in the world: when his form is running hot, he is all but unplayable. And this Fortnight has taught him that he really belongs in the company of the likes of Djokovic in the final of a Grand Slam.
“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,” Kyrgios said.
“I feel like if I had won that Grand Slam, I think I would have lacked a bit of motivation, to be honest. Coming back for other tournaments, like 250s and stuff, I would have really struggled. I kind of would have achieved the greatest pinnacle of what you can achieve in tennis.
“But my level is right there. I feel like 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.
“Confidence obviously. It was a hell of an occasion. People were probably expecting me to have something happen today. But 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.”
The trick now is to find a way to win one of these titles. It is an art Djokovic has perfected (his win took his overall tally of Grand Slam titles to 21, one behind Rafael Nadal).
The sheer work needed to win one of these trophies is, Kyrgios thinks, beyond most people’s comprehension. He has had a taste of it here and he has nothing but respect for the Big Three and what they have achieved.
“It takes a hell of an athlete, mentally and physically, to win one of these things,” Kyrgios said. “I think eight people have won this title since I’ve been born. It shows, physically, one thing, obviously it shows. Mentally it’s another beast. To come back here for two weeks in a row. None of the people in this room understand it.
“I commend Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal. These guys, what they deal with must be insane. And that is, for me, the sign of a champion. That’s what they deal with, as well, and then being able to perform, it’s incredible.”
Now that it is all over, the Australian feels great. The pressure from outside and from within is gone; the chitter-chatter on social media in the build up to the final is done and he can feel proud of what he has achieved these past two weeks and what he could do in the future.
“I felt like I belonged. I lost this match, but I feel like there’s just weight off my shoulders,” he said. “I feel like there’s so much weight on my shoulders all the time when I step out on the tennis court, now it’s just released and I feel amazing. This is the best I’ve felt the two weeks.
“I was obviously super excited to be here and I had some high hopes, but I’ve never felt, to be honest, good. I just felt so much pressure. There’s so much anxiety, pressure to do things or achieve things. If I don’t do well, like it’s just so much. So I feel unbelievable. Like I’m two beers deep.”
Whether any or any of these feelings and thoughts stay with Kyrgios through the summer and on to the US Open is anyone’s guess. But if they do and if he goes to New York mentally prepared for another two weeks of focus and pressure, anything seems possible.