It was written in the stars for Nick Kyrgios at the Abierto Mexicano. After weathering a week that included injuries, food poisoning, cramps and one difficult opponent after another, the Aussie took the title on Saturday in Acapulco by defeating second seed Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I didn’t expect much at all today. I knew I was the underdog going in and that he’s playing great tennis,” said Kyrgios. “He’s an incredible player and doesn’t have many weaknesses, so I knew I had to play my style of tennis. I’m really happy with the performance.”
Acapulco marked the first time that the Aussie defeated two Top 3 players in the same tournament and the first time he defeated three Top 10 players in one week. Kyrgios will cut his ATP Ranking by more than half with his title run and is projected to move just outside the Top 30 on Monday.
“It’s hopefully an example for people who are struggling and getting in some places you don’t think you can get out of. If I can do it, you can do it,” said Kyrgios. “I was really down and out and didn’t know what I was going to do, but you have a week like this and things can change.”
Kyrgios finished the match with 26 winners to 19 unforced errors. He remained nearly untouchable on serve throughout the night, firing 13 aces and winning 77 per cent of his first-serve points. Kyrgios also took the lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Zverev 4-3.
Kyrgios arrived in Acapulco with a tepid 2-3 start to the season and an ATP Ranking that had dropped to No. 72, his lowest standing in five years. But the 23-year-old always gets up to face the world’s best and did that night after night this week.
After a first-round win over Andreas Seppi, Kyrgios scored back-to-back wins over multi-Grand Slam champions Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka to reach the semi-finals. He saved three match points against Nadal in the third-set tie-break of their Acapulco classic and overcame cramps in the latter stages of his marathon battle with Wawrinka. Kyrgios then toppled a pair of Top 10 opponents in John Isner (No. 9) and Zverev (No. 3) for the title.
Zverev dropped to 10-6 in career finals. Despite the loss, the German is 9-2 this season and all signs point to him continuing to be a major contender for the biggest trophies on the ATP Tour this year.
“If you beat four players like that in an [ATP] 500 tournament, you deserve to win it. He’s the real champion of this week,” said Zverev. “Everybody needs to give credit to the people that deserve it, and this week [Nick] proved to be the best player."
Saturday’s final started with Kyrgios dominating the exchanges. Zverev controlled the tempo in his previous matches this week, but found himself scrambling far behind the baseline to keep himself in rallies. A forehand error from the German down break point gave Kyrgios a 3-1 lead in the opening set.
The most noticeable and effective play of the match was Kyrgios’ repeated use of drop shots. Once he pushed Zverev well behind the baseline, Kyrgios often threw in a perfectly disguised short ball to the awe of the crowd. The tactic helped the world No. 72 erase a break point at 4-2 and, two games later, he cracked a forehand winner on his first set point to grab the early advantage.
It appeared Kyrgios would run away with the match after breaking serve in the opening game, but his first dip in form came in the next game and he gifted the break back with a double fault. Zverev earned a break point chance with Kyrgios serving at 1-2 but, to the German’s frustration, the Aussie saved it with a beautifully carved drop shot and then held serve with another.
The second seed went up 40/0 in the fifth game, but yet another drop shot winner helped Kyrgios bring it to deuce. Kyrgios raised his level further and ripped two clean winners to grab the break and a 3-2 lead.
The slight advantage was all he needed. A big serve on his first championship point wrapped up play after 90 minutes.