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Kyrgios misses out as continents collide at Wimbledon 2018

Source: PlayersVoice via Facebook

This men’s tournament at Wimbledon this year provided an unusually diverse quarter-final line-up, with five continents represented among the eight remaining players. This was only the second time in the Open era that such a feat occurred at Wimbledon. With the ATP tour frequently dominated by Europeans and Americans, it is refreshing to see a range of new contenders staking their claim in the latter stages of a Grand Slam. Somewhat surprisingly given the talent available, Oceania went unrepresented in the quarter-finals.

If we exclude Antarctica from the debate, purely because Antarctica are yet to produce a tennis player of real quality for some reason, then Oceania are the only continent to be missing from the Wimbledon quarter-finals on the men’s side. Australia have an impressive heritage at the tournament, with Lleyton Hewitt managing to sneak in a title in 2002 before the Roger Federer era of dominance began. Moreover, Australian legends Rod Laver and John Newcombe shared the first four Wimbledon titles of the Open era between them. When Nick Kyrgios exploded on to the scene, there was a mixture of hope and expectation that he could be the next Australian Slam champion.

This has not yet transpired for a multitude of reasons. Kyrgios has been unable to better the Grand Slam quarter-final that he achieved at Wimbledon in 2014. That was his Wimbledon debut, with the Australian stunning the world by beating Rafael Nadal 7-6 5-7 7-6 6-3 in the fourth round. This made him the lowest-ranked player to take down the world number one at a Grand Slam since 1992, but perhaps this shock victory has subsequently set the bar too high for Kyrgios.

Kyrgios’ volatile nature on court is well-documented, with further question marks over his level of application and his long-term fitness often making him frustrating to watch. Kyrgios’ defeat to Kei Nishikori in the third round this year prompted what is now a standard discussion following a Kyrgios loss, with The Guardian summarising the various views. Kyrgios cited nerves and panic as a reason for his subpar showing, while his code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct and a perceived lack of effort causing commentators to question his mental fortitude. Whatever the reasons, the fact that Kyrgios lost fairly comprehensively to Nishikori remains. Kyrgios should be thriving on the grass courts, with his big serving and powerful hitting perfectly suited to the surface.

Kyrgios has one more shot in 2018 to make a significant impression on a Grand Slam. The US Open is the perfect competition for an outsider to seize glory, with its positioning at the end of the year often throwing up withdrawals and fatigued performances as players feel the effects of a strenuous year. Last year’s tournament saw the draw open up in bizarre fashion, while Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro both count a US Open title as their solitary Grand Slam title.

Europeans have a monopoly on the shortest prices with bookmakers to take the title this year, with Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic the three favourites and playing as if it were 2008 again rather than 2018. Yet there are dangerous players lurking below. Kyrgios can be found around odds of 25/1 with bookmakers, placing him at a shorter price than Grand Slam finalists Nishikori and Dominic Thiem. Interestingly, his price is currently much shorter than last year’s finalist Kevin Anderson, a testament to how fans consider Kyrgios forever on the verge of one stunning tournament in which the stars align.

 

Anderson celebrates beating Federer at Wimbledon. Source: Kevin Anderson via Facebook.

Anderson’s price is likely to shorten dramatically as fans respond to his successful Wimbledon campaign, so it may be prudent for punters to act sooner rather than later to get the best price. There are a range of betting offers and reviews listed by Oddschecker to keep players apprised of the best sign-up bonuses, which make the idea of opposing the likes of Federer and Nadal more palatable. Earning bonuses gives punters more freedom to back an outsider if they desire, and if there is going to be a shock winner then the US Open is the perfect venue to host a surprise. Getting behind a Kyrgios and an Anderson is far punchier than suggesting Federer might just win another Slam, but European dominance may be coming to an end.

Anderson was the sole representative of Africa in this year’s Wimbledon quarter-final line-up, with the big-serving South African flying the flag for his continent. Europe had three players (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer – who else would it have been?) and North America two (John Isner, Milos Raonic), while del Potro and Nishikori represented South America and Asia respectively. Anderson is particularly notable as he is only one of two Africans in the top 100 of the ATP world rankings. Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri has been floating around the top 60 for the past couple of years, with the erratic but talented shot-maker the poster boy for North African tennis. South Africa have enjoyed more regular success than any other African nation, but Anderson’s achievements are remarkable.

Oceania, or in this case Australia, has more strength in depth than Africa, but lacks a player of Anderson’s calibre. Matthew Ebden, John Millman and Alex De Minaur have all soared to new career bests in recent weeks, but have not shown the kind of prowess that will propel them to a quarter-final. The former duo are experienced professionals who have found their feet on the cusp of turning thirty, but it is the teenager De Minaur who holds the greatest hope about representing Australia in Grand Slam quarter-finals to come.

Of course, Kyrgios prompted a similar discussion as a teenager. Bernard Tomic was another young Australian who was supposed to be a star but who failed to handle the pressure of expectations, or perhaps didn’t fancy trying to handle the pressure. De Minaur is a less volatile character and began 2018 very impressively when reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane and the final in Sydney. Trying to predict a future Grand Slam winner is problematic, but the signs of De Minaur reaching at least a quarter-final are promising.

The stunning consistency of the Fab Five (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka) has seen Europe dominate Grand Slam titles. Del Potro’s US Open title in 2009 ended a run of 21 European Slam winners, with the subsequent 26 titles going back to Europe in a resumption of normal service. Yet these players will not be around forever, although Federer is doing his best to defy those expectations. It is rare to have so many legendary players still at the top of their games, but when they eventually decline it will be interesting to see whether they are replaced with Europeans or if a new continent asserts dominance. The United States have a raft of promising youngsters, while De Minaur and Canada’s Denis Shapovalov are full of promise and ambition. The diverse nature of this year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals may become the normality rather than a rarity