Aussie tennis star to split with Kiwi coach

LINDA PEARCE
Last updated 12:30 02/07/2014
Sydney Morning Herald

Wimbledon wild-card 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios beats top seed Rafael Nadal in a sensational fourth round upset.

Nick Kyrgios
Getty Images
CHANGING FORMULA: Despite upsetting world No 1 Rafael Nadal on his way to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, young Aussie tennis star Nick Kyrgios is set to split with Kiwi coach Simon Rea.

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The young Aussie ace who has become the talk of the tennis world with his sensational upset of world No 1 Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon is set to dump his Kiwi coach Simon Rea.

Nick Kyrgios is set to make major changes to his winning formula despite his breakout grand slam performance culminating in his four-sets victory over Nadal on centre court today in one of the great grand slam upsets.

The 19-year-old, ranked 144th, reached the quarter-finals by stunning Nadal 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, becoming the first man in a decade to reach the last eight at Wimbledon on debut.

He is also the first player ranked outside the top 100 to beat a world No.1 since 1992, and the first teenager to achieve the feat at a grand slam since Nadal himself beat Roger Federer at Roland Garros in 2005. He is the lowest-ranked player ever to beat Nadal at a major, and the youngest to beat the great Spaniard anywhere since No.690 Joachim Johansson in Stockholm in 2006.

But it has been revealed to Fairfax Media Kyrgios will be splitting immediately but amicably with his Tennis Australia coach Rea, the New Zealander who has overseen his rise from 843rd to inside the top 100 in 18 spectacular months.

After returning from Wimbledon, where Kyrgios will meet big-serving Canadian eighth seed Milos Raonic in the quarters, the 19-year-old will shift back to the family home in Canberra from his base near Melbourne's National Tennis Centre, where he has trained since early last year.

Thus the split with Rea.

Rea's home is in Melbourne, and for that reason and others, apparently, the relationship will end in London, this week. It is uncertain what role, if any, Kyrgios' strength and conditioning coach Aaron Kellett - also Melbourne-based - will retain.

Clinton Coleman, who co-manages Kyrgios at the small British agency Global Tennis Connections, admitted that opting to alter what has worked so well represented a gamble for the youngster rated among the leading prospects in the men's game, a Roger Federer practice guest dubbed a top five prospect by 13th seed Richard Gasquet, and by Wimbledon champion Andy Murray last month as the ''next big Aussie star''.

''I can't say more how much everyone in the Kyrgios family and management team appreciate Simon's personal commitment to it,'' Coleman told Fairfax Media.

''Yes, it is a risk, but it was a decision that took time to make, it wasn't taken lightly, and we definitely believe it's the right one.

''It was Nick's decision, not the family's or ours. It was his decision that he wanted to change because of x, y and z, and then he spoke to Simon. And Simon, just as he's been all along, has been exceptionally understanding.''

Kyrgios' junior coach, Todd Larkham, is expected to resume a more prominent role with team Kyrgios, but runs a tennis centre in Canberra and is unlikely to travel extensively. The complete picture will be sketched in consultation with the funds-provider, Tennis Australia, and Kellett may retain a redefined position either on the road or during specific training blocks.

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But Coleman insisted the main motivation for the decision was the family's preference - including Malaysian mother Norlaila and Greek father George - for the youngest of three children in a tight-knit family to return home.

Coleman said the specifics of Rea's replacement would not be decided until after Kyrgios ended his debut Wimbledon campaign.

''Without a doubt, Nick is much more effective when he is living at home with his brother [Christos, 27], who he's very close to, and he's a fitness guy as well, so he can look after that side, and his mother and father. He prefers to do that, he's done that all his life, and then played at his local club,'' Coleman said.

''Even going to Melbourne for long periods of time, he's not as happy, so it might be not the right thing for everybody, but it's right for Nick, and that's why we want to do that. We've got Todd Larkham who's from Canberra as well, so there are quality coaches there that can work with Nick going forward.

''The relationship he's had with Simon, and the job Simon's done has been incredible. To do what he has achieved from a 17-year-old to a 19-year-old has been remarkable. We feel it's at a point where it's naturally going to end, now, due to logistics, and what Nick wants to do, and Simon and Nick decided that this would be the last tournament, and so their relationship will end after the championships.They decided that just before the French Open.''

Kyrgios dropped his magnificent serve just once today, when he allowed Nadal to level at one-set all, but although he only broke once, too, in the fourth set, it was enough.

Two tiebreaks took care of the rest, less than a week after he was spared a second round exit with a successful Hawk-eye challenge of a double-fault called on the fifth of the nine match points he saved against Richard Gasquet.

''I think I was in the zone out there,'' said Kyrgios.

''I played some incredible tennis. I was struggling a little bit on return, but I worked my way into it and got that break in the fourth set.''

The constants were his serving, and incredible self-belief.

''You have to believe that you can win the match from the start, and I definitely thought that.''

Afterwards, he said he was unsure what to do. ''Just so many emotions.''

Beforehand, Kyrgios said he would play his game, have fun, go for his shots. All of it eventuated, and then some, as a style of tennis described by former top-tenner Peter McNamara as ''Bang, boom-boom-boom,'' followed exactly that template in the opening few games, starting with a 204kmh ace. Nerves? What nerves?

Indeed, Kyrgios was the better player early, holding a set point just before a tiebreak he led 4-0 and closed 7-5 with an ace, claiming 43 points to 36, and all 19 points on his untouchable first serve.

Kyrgios was enjoying himself, skipping along the baseline after one audacious return winner, smiling at his box as he pranced to his chair after consecutive aces, 10 and 11, late in the first set.

At 3-4, 0-40 in the second, he played a between-the-legs winner that Tim Henman described as the shot of the year - then raised his arms and grinned, loving it. How hard did you say this centre court grand slam caper was?

The party didn't end immediately, but, gradually, the other, more celebrated guest, started to make his presence felt. Nadal's service games were getting quicker, and easier, and Kyrgios' slightly less emphatic.

The Spaniard finally broke through in the 12th game, as Kyrgios served to try to force a tiebreak.

Two unforced backhand errors set the tone, and although the first set point was saved with an audacious ace that kissed the sideline, the second was lost with a netted forehand, and Nadal let rip with a heartfelt ''Vamos''.

The Australian had come too far not to push as far as he could possibly take it, and if he was going down, it would have to be in five.

Slightly against the run of play, he saved a set point at 5-6 in the third set with a forehand winner, and then extended a fine tiebreak record that is already 11-6 at this infant stage of his senior career.

His only break of the three hours came for 3-1 in the fourth set, but he did not blink as he coolly served his way into the quarter-finals.

Now it is about recovery, although Kyrgios vowed just to enjoy the moment, and the night, before worrying about Raonic on Thursday (NZT).

 


- The Age

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