The Pitch Worked: Kyrgios Arrives Hungry In Houston
The Americans pitched Kyrgios on coming to the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship, and it worked: The 22-year-old Aussie is making his debut at the only clay-court event in North America.
“I heard a lot of good things about it. Obviously a couple of my buddies always play this tournament, told me, 'You'd love it here',” Kyrgios said on Tuesday. “All the Americans said it's an amazing tournament. So I gave it a chance and it's been unbelievable so far.”
The Aussie officially made his Houston debut on Monday, falling in doubles with countryman Matt Reid. But Kyrgios' singles stay will start on Wednesday when he faces American Bjorn Fratangelo, who dropped only two games in beating Kyrgios' countryman Jordan Thompson 6-1, 6-1 on Monday.
Kyrgios carries altered expectations this week compared to his start of the year. In January, after declaring it was “time to mature”, he had the best beginning of his career.
The 22-year-old hoisted his fourth tour-level title at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp and reached the fourth round at his home Grand Slam in Melbourne.
But injuries to his back and right elbow have slowed him down. He withdrew from Rotterdam, Delray Beach, Acapulco and the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells before making the fourth round at the Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Zverev) last month.
“Just to go out there and get through a match without having pain is a success for me. Obviously I want to go out there, win matches, win a tournament. I'm more than capable of that,” Kyrgios said.
“But at this stage it's just more about making sure my body can sustain match pressure. Going out there and practising is different than going out there in a match situation and feeling no pain, so we'll see how it goes.”
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“He's got a service motion that, it won't ever fail. It's a perfect service motion. He's just so talented. His backhand is world-class. His forehand is world-class. For him, everyone knows, he knows, it's all between his ears,” Isner said.
“If he wants to put it together, I think he can, and he has showed that. So hopefully he comes here in the right frame of mind and puts on a good show for everyone here in Houston.”
To Kyrgios, the change to clay means having patience, waiting a shot or two longer before unleashing a 110-mph forehand down the line. But he sounds ready for the task and appreciative of his improved health, all good news for Houston fans.
“If you're pretty physically strong you have good success [on clay]. But for me I think it's just about being disciplined. You can't shorten the points as much as you can on other surfaces. You gotta hang tough, and you'll have good success,” Kyrgios said. “I'm just pretty grateful to be in a healthier state of mind and ready to get going.”