One is as hard-working as they come, a relentless professional who, in the words of all-time great Rod Laver, “won’t ever let a match die.”
The other admits to lacking the discipline of an Alex de Minaur, but is as powerful as they come, a talented player who, when playing in the right environment, can beat anyone. “He’s probably got the best serve in the game,” Laver said of Nick Kyrgios.
You will struggle to find two more contrasting players on the ATP Tour than De Minaur, who lacks an overpowering weapon but makes up for it with speed and grit, and Kyrgios, who has one of the biggest serves and forehands in tennis but self-admittedly lacks the drive that has pushed De Minaur to a career-high of No. 18.
But tennis has room for all characters, and both of them will lead Team Australia during the inaugural ATP Cup, to be held 3-12 January in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. De Minaur and Kyrgios, alongside John Millman, John Peers and Chris Guccione, will play in Brisbane in Group F against Germany, Greece and Canada.
“Tennis is great to have the both of them playing as well as they are now,” Laver told ATPTour.com. “That’s a good team.”
The only man to win the calendar Grand Slam in the Open Era (1969) has things he likes about both De Minaur and Kyrgios. About De Minaur, for instance, Laver especially appreciates the #NextGenATP Aussie’s work ethic. The 20-year-old, like Laver in his day, never concedes a point.
“I was always pretty aggressive. I said, ‘You are not going to beat me.’ You put that out there, and I think a lot of people think, ‘Holy s*#!,’” Laver said.
“Love/40 point, and you work to try to win that point, and if you do win it, the next one is possible. And so you’re putting something in the other guy’s brain that says, ‘I better be careful,’ and with that, you get more opportunities.”
Laver recalls watching De Minaur a couple of years ago for the first time. The teenager hadn’t grown into his 6′ frame, but Laver saw an “unbelievable talent”.
Since then, De Minaur’s peers have learned the scope of his talent and work ethic. The Aussie was No. 208 at the start of the 2018 season but finished this season at a career-high year-end ATP Ranking of No. 18. The two-time Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up (2018, 2019) won three titles this year, including his first at the Sydney International, where he became the youngest champion since mentor Lleyton Hewitt, 19, in 2001. De Minaur will target the Top 10 in 2020.
“If he gets a few breaks here and there he could be mentioned with the top players,” Laver said. “To me, he’s going to be a real force on the circuit and give the top guys all they can handle.”
Kyrgios has already beaten all of the top guys. The 6’4” Aussie has won three of seven FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Rafael Nadal, one of seven against Roger Federer and both times he played Novak Djokovic.
The 24-year-old Kyrgios thrives under the bright lights, but he especially cherishes playing with a team and representing more than himself on court.
“I think the way Laver Cup is, the way ATP Cup is going to be, I think that’s what tennis needs moving forward,” Kyrgios said. “I think it’s unbelievable, that concept to play in a team, and I think it’s way more exciting for the fans to watch. I think it’s easier to follow a team, as well.”
The right-hander had match point on Federer at the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague in 2017 and has gone 3-0 in doubles matches at the team event.
“Maybe when he’s at the ATP Cup, he’s going to really enjoy it,” Laver said of his countryman. “I think the camaraderie with the team concept he seems to like and enjoy. Because at the Laver Cup, he just showed it; he didn’t mess around when he was playing.”
A locked-in Kyrgios and a well-rested De Minaur next month could go a long ways towards keeping the inaugural ATP Cup title on home soil.