Australian tennis legend Todd Woodbridge says Nick Kyrgios must learn from the devastating experience of missing out on the Australian Open and ask himself if he got his preparation right leading into the Australian summer.
Kyrgios cut a forlorn figure as he addressed the media on Monday afternoon to announce that he would be withdrawing from his round one clash with Roman Safiullin, scheduled to be played on John Cain Arena in prime time on Tuesday night.
The enigmatic Aussie star later shared on Instagram a picture of the fluid that was drained from his knee due to an injury that ultimately stopped him in his tracks.
The graphic illustration of the injury was enough for Woodbridge to acknowledge that Kyrgios had likely done the right thing by withdrawing, rather than attempting to play through the pain.
“I guess given what we now know about the issues that are going on with the knee, it would have been tough to get through, on hard court, six or seven matches,” Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports.
“Maybe it’s even tough to get through two. And ultimately, you have to look at the preparation before; was that exactly right for what he needed? You can never be on top of every injury.”
Yet Woodbridge couldn’t help but wonder if a more suitable schedule to lead in to the Australian summer would have changed Kyrgios’ destiny.
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”I would hope he has a look at what he did at Wimbledon last year when his preparation was great,” Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports.
“The lead-up from a physical point-of-view, to then getting into the lead-in tournaments, to playing enough matches to be able to walk into Wimbledon knowing that everything was in that positive frame that he spoke about, that his ball striking was good, that his health was good; it gave him a chance to get in a final. Was that the preparation that happened before this summer?
“That’s the question, and if you were looking back at his schedule you would say that it was difficult to see that prep when he was flying around the world playing exhibition events.”
After playing doubles with close mate Thanasi Kokkinakis at the ATP’s Tour Finals in Italy in November, Kyrgios took some time off before taking some lucrative paydays in exhibition events in Mexico and the Middle East in December.
He had planned to play at the United Cup, which started on December 29, to kick off his Australian summer but withdrew from that match due to injury and was unable to get his body right in time for the Australian Open.
Woodbridge argued that Kyrgios’ Wimbledon run resulted from a more focused preparation that got him in the mental and physical shape to challenge for the title.
He encouraged Kyrgios to use that preparation as a blueprint for the three grand slams – Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open – that he can contend in.
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”You only get so many chances to win this tournament and it’s one more year gone where he doesn’t have that chance of winning the Australian Open,” Woodbridge said.
“You’ve got to take the money while you can, but at the same time it didn’t allow him the same prep that he had at Wimbledon. So hopefully next time around he looks ahead and says ‘I really want to play the summer and show everyone at home what I can do’ because ultimately that’s what they want to see from him, they want to get behind him.”
In his press conference on Monday, Kyrgios and his physiotherapist Will Maher said his attention would turn to Indian Wells in March, indicating that his rehabilitation plan would likely have him back on the court in the next month.
That timeline will put his plan to return to Roland-Garros in the spotlight, with the Aussie star last year admitting he’d been convinced by his girlfriend Costeen Hatzi to break with convention and include the Paris grand slam in his schedule.
Woodbridge hinted that he’d like Kyrgios to reassess that plan to give him the best chance of another deep run at Wimbledon.
”Now there’s got to be that reassessment of what the rest of the season looks like, what the priority is,” Woodbridge said.
“He’s spoken about playing on clay, is that the one he’s going to win? Because ultimately at the end of his career, what he’s going to be judged by is the results.
“He’s got a close result at Wimbledon but he really is a contender to win there. He’s one of the four top players and I would think that has to be the focus for the rest of the season; getting this knee right, getting the prep right, like he did last year, and see whether he can go one further.”
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