It’s almost 12 months since Nick Kyrgios took the sporting public on a ride for the ages.
For two straight weeks the narrative around the most iconic slam in tennis was centred on the polarising Australian who was looking more and more like the player many predicated he would become when he first burst onto the tour 10 years ago.
What Kyrgios was doing on-court though was only a small part of the reason his legion of fans was growing with every bucket of strawberries that was sold.
His every word and move has always been scrutinised like none other, so the media storm was amplified as he dazzled his way to the final for a date with enemy-turned-friend Novak Djokovic.
Kyrgios took the first set against the Serbian superstar and was looking more and more like a Wimbledon champion with every rocket he sent over the net.
Completely unfazed by the theatre stemming from the other end of the court though, Djokovic from that moment on took control and with it captured a 21st major crown.
The wash-up from a Kyrgios perspective was all about what’s next and what if? Has the penny dropped? Will he finally win a slam? Will it be as soon as the US Open? Can he do it on home soil in January?
There were some signs those questions might have been answered in the way many hoped they would be. A title in Washington before an agonising QF loss at the US Open to Karen Khachanov which left Kyrgios gutted.
“I’m just devastated, obviously. I [just] feel like it was either winning it all or nothing at all, to be honest. I feel like I’ve just failed at this event right now. That’s what it feels like.”
Nick’s body itself has never been shy of having something to say and unfortunately, it’s the reason we’ve hardly seen or heard from last year’s Wimbledon finalist since January when he pulled out of the Australian Open due to a knee injury which subsequently required arthroscopic surgery.
After missing the first couple of months of 2023 recovering from his knee surgery, a lacerated foot sustained during the theft of his car delayed his return even further, forcing him to miss the entire clay season and the French Open for a sixth consecutive year.
There’s not much Kyrgios has ever done in his professional life that has flown under the radar but his return to match-play last week at Stuttgart was about as low-key as it gets.
The 28-year-old had some nice moments on serve but largely struggled against Wu Yibing, going down 7-5 6-3 to give his Chinese opponent just the third top 30 win of his career.
Kyrgios uttered to his team at one stage that he was “unable to walk without pain” in a clear sign that fans should temper any expectations they have of some sort of fairy-tale comeback over the next few weeks.
He was quick to jump on social media after the loss and tweet out this message to his followers, emphasising that his best tennis is still some way away.
The fact of the matter is Kyrgios just hasn’t got the matches or the miles into his body yet. It’s going to take weeks, even months before he can likely return to somewhere near his best.
His participation at Wimbledon is now under a serious cloud after pulling out of Halle to deal with ongoing issues relating to his knee.
He’s never been one to make up the numbers. You only have to look at his French Open passport to realise that.
It now leaves Mallorca as his last chance to get matches in, an event ironically, he withdrew from mid-tournament last year to adequately rest up for the All England Club.
His current ranking of 25 and his record on the grass means he will likely be seeded at Wimbledon this year, ensuring he can avoid a potential early clash with one of the sport’s big guns.
The next two weeks will give us a better indication of where he’s at and where he’s heading.
Even his fiercest critics would be secretly hoping he rocks up to Wimbledon in a fortnight and takes them on a rollercoaster just like he did in 2022 but the reality is a dream-run is probably even more unlikely than what any bookmaker is prepared to let you on for.
It feels like the Kyrgios show has been on hold so far in 2023.
If it’s ever going to return with a bang a fitting place for it would be the famous grass courts of SW19.
One thing is for sure though, the game of tennis is a whole lot better for having Nick Kyrgios back involved.
The next generation of stars are forging their own path and Djokovic is still doing what he does best – winning slams.
None though draw the attention that the Aussie firebrand does when he steps on court and with that, tennis should be grateful he’s back.