Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Kyrgios-Zverev Rivalry May Not Be So Much Fun After All

Illustration for article titled The Kyrgios-Zverev Rivalry May Not Be So Much Fun After All
Photo: Clive Brunskill (Getty)

Almost one year ago to the day, Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev had themselves a beautiful baby: a match-long highlight reel starring two ornery geniuses. That was a different time: Kyrgios had embarked on a focused tear through Indian Wells and Miami, playing as well as he ever has; Zverev was about to begin his speedy ascent into the top ten. When these two met again Tuesday in the fourth round of Miami, the highlights could fit comfortably into two minutes. You didn’t miss much else.

Okay, you also missed a challenge by Zverev that was so bad everyone involved had to laugh:

Zverev was in that smiley, jovial mindset for most of the match, snapping out of his 2018 slump to play his lethal if unsurprising brand of tennis, feeling plenty in control despite the sporadic signs of life from Kyrgios. After slipping down to 5-1 with back and elbow pains—amid the more general pains of being Nick—the Australian suddenly stirred awake, starting with that colossal forehand at 5-2, 15-15 in the first video above. He proceeded to break back and hold serve, threatening to make a match of it. But Zverev put out all the small fires as they flared up, found his break at 2-2 in the second set and claimed his 6-4, 6-4 win. Kyrgios, who was defending a memorable semifinal appearance here, will now fall to No. 24 in the rankings.

This wasn’t the desired product. The tour believes, or more realistically prays, that this rivalry could sustain interest in the men’s game after Roger and Rafa limp off into the sunset. Zverev and Kyrgios have staggering and dissimilar skillsets that produce sparks when put in contact. We’ve seen it before. That doesn’t mean the actual matches will live up to the billing, and thus far only one in four has, but who knows—there could be a decade more of this assuming, very generously, that one of them sticks around to see it through.

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