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ATP Tennis Is Off And Running With Krygios, Tsitsipas, Andy Murray And Others All Meeting Up In Montreal

By Alix Ramsay

It is only three weeks since the Wimbledon final and yet it seems like a lifetime ago.

When the tennis world collapsed into an exhausted heap after more than two months of grind on the clay courts and five weeks of frenetic activity on the grass, it did not seem as if anyone had any energy left for any more excitement. And yet we are, three weeks away from the start of the US Open and it is all happening.

Nick Kyrgios has charmed, entertained – and occasionally blown a gasket – on his way to the Washington title, Dominic Thiem has gone back to his roots to win on clay in Kitzbuhel (the argument about why anyone is playing on clay at this time of year can be left for another day. But, really, people: why?) and Diego Schwartzman won – on a perfectly sensible hard court – in Mexico. Oh, and Andy Murray is practicing singles in Montreal. The summer is warming up nicely.

Kyrgios’s win came as a very pleasant and hugely entertaining surprise. Yes, he gave his box abuse as the week went on; he “gave them heaps” as the Aussies are wont to say. And, yes, he grumbled and swore as he gave a running commentary on his own failings and those of the officials around him but, then again, he always does. But he also had fun with the crowd, asking the punters in the courtside seats where he should serve next. He even did it on match point in the final. And it all worked.

Best of all was when he helped out Stefanos Tsitsipas in their semi-final. This match was a tight as a tight thing can get in a tight situation – Kyrgios won 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 – but in the middle of it all, Tsitsipas had a shoe malfunction. His shoelaces broke and he had no replacements. Cue much faffing about in the Greek’s player box to find another pair of shoes and get them to their man sharpish.

Over trotted Kyrgios to take the new shoes from Tsitsipas’s team and hand deliver them, with much bowing and scraping, to the soon-to-be world No.5. Tsitsipas, who was going through his usual routines at the change of ends, now faced his biggest challenge of the day: how to drink his water, laugh and not choke all the same time as Kyrgios delivered the replacement size 12s on bended knee. Yes, it was all jolly good fun. And Kyrgios won which made it all the better (well, it did if you were not Tsitsipas or one of his followers).

This is the good side of Nick, the side that revels in being the showman and the damned fine player. Of course he deviates from the norm but those touched with genius are never “normal”. If they were, they would just be players.

While others prepare for a big match with warm-ups, massages and tactical team talks, Kyrgios got himself ready by playing table tennis with a group of kids. They had a blast, he had a blast and then, happy as Larry, he headed to his match and blasted the opposition off the court. When he is happy, all is well. Whether he will be as happy in Montreal this week, who knows – and the last man to know will probably be Nick. ‘Twas ever thus.

All of which brings us to the Muzz. He is one of Kyrgios’s friends on tour and has often defended the Australian firebrand when others have been lining up to tear him to shreds. That said, the Muzz is not blind to his friend’s wayward tendencies – he just wants everyone to see the best of Nick Kyrgios… and that involves Nick doing his bit to help.

“When he’s mentally engaged in the matches, he’s brilliant for tennis because he has an exciting game, a big personality and he’s different,” Murray told the ATP website. “People enjoy watching that. I enjoy watching that. His match with Rafa at Wimbledon was one of the best matches of the tournament. That’s really good for tennis.

“Everyone matures at different ages. Some people are ready when they are 18, 19 to deal with what comes with being a top athlete and some people aren’t ready and it takes them a bit of time. I’m hoping that with time Nick will learn and be better for it.

“When he’s engaged in tennis and wants to play, he’s brilliant for the game. And when he isn’t giving his best effort and misbehaving, that’s not what people want to see. He needs to find that balance.”

Muzz, too, needs to find the right balance in the coming weeks. He is playing doubles with Feliciano Lopez this week although their chances of repeating their Queen’s Club success look thin: they open their account in Canada against the No.2 seeds, Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot. But the doubles is only part of his plan.

Six months on from his hip resurfacing surgery, Muzz is recovering more quickly than he had anticipated. He has been practicing singles with Kyle Edmund – amongst others – in the past couple of days and, slowly but surely, he is preparing for a return to the individual game.

“I’ll decide by the end of this week, probably,” he told the ATP website. “If I feel like I’m ready to play singles in Cincinnati then I would do that. But if I’m not feeling like I’m ready, I’ll probably wait until after New York because I’m not going to play New York as my first event.

“Before I went to Washington, I was practising singles but mainly with junior players. Then when I went to Washington, I was playing sets with the top players who were there and I was doing quite well. Here [in Montreal], I’m trying to extend the period I’m playing singles points for. Today I played 12 games and felt fine.

“Maybe by the end of this week, I’ll try and build up to playing a couple of sets and see how I pull up from there. I’ll just feel it [when I’m ready].

“I didn’t quite feel like I was ready this week but I know I’m getting really close. It’s not months away any more. But also, with all that’s happened in the past couple of years, I don’t want to rush. I don’t feel any urgency.

“If my hip wasn’t feeling good, I’d probably want to give it one last shot and go “right, I’ll play the US Open”. But because I’m feeling well, I want to potentially prolong my career on the tennis tour and not shorten it by making a mistake.”

And if the Muzz and his hip are feeling strong enough to play in Cincinnati, does that mean we could see the 2012 US Open champion back in New York? Stay tuned…