By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Nick Kyrgios admits it felt “ridiculous” for a basketball-mad guy from Canberra to be playing a Wimbledon final but after losing to Novak Djokovic he feels like he belongs.
Many thought the controversial world number 40 had blown his immense talent and that he would never better his quarter-final run as a teenaged debutant in 2014 when he beat Rafa Nadal.
While there have been trademark antics during the fortnight and Kyrgios continues to divide opinion over whether he is a force for good in tennis, the 27-year-old Australian proved he is not far away from landing a Grand Slam.
A sensational first set left Djokovic dazed in the Centre Court sunshine, before the Serb seized control to win 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(3) in three absorbing hours.
In the end it was not to be, but Kyrgios sounded upbeat about his future prospects.
“It’s taken me almost 10 years in my career to finally get to the point of playing for a Grand Slam (final) and coming up short,” Kyrgios told reporters.
“I feel like if I had won that Grand Slam, I think I would have lacked a bit of motivation, to be honest. I would have kind of achieved the greatest pinnacle of what you can achieve in tennis.
“I played a slam final against one of the greatest of all time, and I was right there.
“I came out in the first set and I looked like I was the one who had played in a lot of finals. I thought I dealt with the pressure pretty well.”
Kyrgios said being given a walkover by an injured Nadal in the semi-final and having five days to think about the biggest match of his life had not been ideal.
“The anxiety of obviously having that day off from the semi-final, I slept terribly again last night,” he said.
“I was just thinking about it all the time. I thought I handled myself well today. I just came up short and I’m happy with that. So I’ve got that under my belt now, a Wimbledon finalist. I can kind of draw from experience.
“I felt like I belonged. I feel like my level has always been there. I feel like I’ve put it together a little bit these couple of weeks.”
Kyrgios said he had played a “hell of a first set” but praised Djokovic’s ice-cool composure.
“In big moments, it just felt like he was never rattled,” Kyrgios said of Djokovic who collected a seventh Wimbledon and 21st Grand Slam title.
Although Kyrgios’s hopes of becoming the first Australian man to win a major for 20 years evaporated, his overriding feeling was one of relief.
“I’m not supposed to be a Wimbledon finalist, like where I’m from, everything I’ve been through. I just feel ridiculous, to be here talking as a Wimbledon finalist.
“I feel like there’s so much weight on my shoulders all the time when I step out on the tennis court, now it’s just released and I feel amazing. Like I’m two beers deep.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)