You can lead Nick Kyrgios to a Slam, but you can’t make him win matches. Maybe he takes two sets against an overwhelmed second-round opponent before deciding that tennis was not a particularly fun way a way to pass the time, and gets booed off home court. Maybe it was time to return to basketball, his one true love. Despite pulling out of a tournament to clear his schedule for the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, the Celtics obsessive did not appear there.
Back to tennis it was, then. Back to spanking Novak Djokovic in Acapulco, then once again at Indian Wells. Yet these things are fickle. One day it’s the best tennis of your life in the Californian desert and the next it’s pulling out of a dream quarterfinal against Roger Federer with food poisoning (rumor pinned it on a bad acai bowl). But Kyrgios leapt back to his best the next week in Miami, toying with his boy-rival Alexander Zverev and losing to Federer in three taut sets in front a of a crowd that wanted to see him flayed. Then it was onto the clay season, a story best told in one GIF. Then it was onto grass—a bad fall, a bad hip, and a bad Wimbledon. Then it was back to hardcourt, where he crapped out of the year’s final major just as early and explosively as he had all the others. But he also resuscitated a rivalry I’d assumed dead, beat Rafael Nadal, and made two finals, losing both—one to Grigor Dimitrov to Cincinnati, one to an avenging Nadal in Beijing.
He went 31-17; he beat the No. 1 player and lost to the No. 235. He reached no farther than the second round of a Slam. He retired from three straight matches. He was fined for withdrawing from another. Along the way he peddled a used car online; inspired some of the most embarrassing sportswriting of the year; and earned kudos from his spiritual ancestor Marat Safin. He hit some tennis shots, too. Here are the best of them, in a new highlight reel.