Have Nick Kyrgios and David Goffin earned 30-40 on their opponents’ serves? No. They are facing a “break point” of a different kind. Though they are not in the exact same positions, they have both been unlucky… and they both need to think about their careers beyond the next tournament in front of them. It is time for Kyrgios and Goffin to look at the bigger picture.
Let’s start with Kyrgios, who once again exhibited discomfort with his hip in Tuesday’s loss to Stan Wawrinka in Toronto.
Kyrgios, at 23, has many years left to give to the sport IF he can establish a measure of health and stamina. He has more tomorrows ahead of him than the number of yesterdays which lie behind him. He is a player of the future more than the present moment, which is still dominated by the Big 3 at the most important tournaments and contains formidable contenders such as Sascha Zverev, Dominic Thiem (Roland Garros only), Juan Martin del Potro, Kevin Anderson, and Marin Cilic.
Kyrgios is a huge NBA basketball fan, so he can appreciate this analogy: The Golden State Warriors are likely to win most of the next three or four NBA championships, so many NBA franchises should think about being ready to compete for the league championship in 2021 or 2022. Basing decisions on the long view, not the next week or month, should be part of most organizations’ philosophies. It is similar with Kyrgios, who is plainly not ready to win majors right now. Making him a player who can be very good in 2020 and then a step greater in 2021 will enable him to hit his prime — and take advantage of it — when Roger Federer turns 40, Rafael Nadal turns 35, and Novak Djokovic turns 34. The Big 3 should continue to be elite for a few more years. Kyrgios is part of a generational cohort of players who can take the torch from the immortals when their run winds down.
If Kyrgios has this larger perspective in mind, he needs to convert this “break point,” otherwise known as taking a long break to establish full health and fitness. What if Kyrgios shut down his season right now and returned in Australia in January? What if he gave his body time to heal and revamped his practice schedule and habits? He could make a fresh start of his career, reorienting himself in a way which could prove to be transformative.
This is not a player in his late 20s who knows he has to survive on tour in certain ways. This is not a player in his early 30s who can’t fundamentally change identities or overhaul his larger approach. That kind of player can make tweaks on the edges but not radically restructure his game. No, Kyrgios is not either one of those players. He is 23 and has time on his side. If he could create a world in which he was the picture of robust health on his 24th birthday, he should welcome that prospect with open arms. Taking a long break now to set up a longer period of prosperity at a later point in time would seem to be the best thing Kyrgios could do right now.
David Goffin, age 27, is not in Kyrgios’s position. He doesn’t face the same kinds of pressures or have the same expansive amount of time Kyrgios owns. Yet, in light of how horribly this season has unfolded after his eye injury in Rotterdam this past February against Grigor Dimitrov, Goffin — bounced out of Toronto on Monday night by Milos Raonic — would seem to be another natural candidate for a long break.
We, as tennis observers, can’t relate to the injury Goffin endured — it was that scary and uncomfortable to watch. Yet, it is the kind of moment which is likely hard for Goffin to expunge from his head. For that reason alone, a break — a mini-sabbatical — can give the Belgian a better opportunity to clear his mind and give his eyes a profound rest. Sacrificing a few events in the short run will definitely be worth it if the Goffin of 2017 can show up at Indian Wells or Miami in 2019.
Not playing for several months can feel like giving up — it can make a person fail to do what comes naturally. Nick Kyrgios and David Goffin need to realize that stepping away can be a sign and demonstration of strength.