Wimbledon 2019 is in full swing… no pun intended. While still early in the bracket, the matchup between the Australian, Nick Kyrgios, and Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, was set to be entertaining. If you have ever watched Kyrgios play, you know he is anything but boring. He is known to cause quite a stir in the tennis community with his boisterous personality, trick shots, unsportsmanlike conduct, and heated interactions with officials. In addition, Kyrgios upset Nadal at Wimbledon five years ago to become the first teenager to beat a No. 1 player at a Grand Slam since Nadal did it in 2005.
In the end, Nadal took the match in four sets. The match was not without drama though of course. In the post-match press conference Kyrgios admitted to intentionally aiming a shot right at Nadal’s chest, a move that raised many eyebrows in a sport traditionally founded on respect and fairness. While this is the storyline that caught many audiences’ attention, this is not what caught mine. Different comments between Nadal and Kyrgios stuck with me.
Nadal was asked to comment on Kyrgios’s potential to win a major championship, a question he is qualified to weigh in on having won 18 majors himself. Analyzing Kyrgios’s probability, Nadal said, “There are a lot of things you need to do to become a champion. He has a lot of good ingredients, but of course the main and important one is the love and the passion for this game. Without really loving this game that much it’s difficult to achieve.” Interestingly enough, Kyrgios seemed to agree with the assessment. He responded, “I’m a great tennis player, but I don’t do the other stuff. I’m not the most professional guy. I won’t train day in, day out. I won’t show up every day. So, there’s a lot of things I need to improve on to get to that level that Rafa brings, Novak (Djokovic), Roger (Federer) have been doing for so long… just depends how bad I want it. But no, at the moment, I don’t think I can contend for a grand slam.”
Hearing this, reinforced just how important the component of passion is, especially once you reach the highest professional level. True GRIT is defined by Angela Duckworth as a combination of passion and perseverance towards long-term achievement. In thinking about the long-term quest towards a major, passion is clearly a requirement. Kyrgios, just 24 years old, has already been able to persevere on several occasions in matches, knocking off top names like Nadal and Djokovic, however, he has yet to advance far enough into a bracket to compete for a major title. Currently ranked No. 33 in the world, the ability-level is there, but it will take more than a dominant serve and high tennis IQ for him to become a major champion. As he said, it will depend on how bad he wants it. It will require new levels of sacrifice, discipline, and focus that cannot be developed without the most important ingredient: passion.