By Paul Eddison at Wimbledon
The doubts over Nick Kyrgios have never been about his tennis.
And despite losing in his first Grand Slam final, you could see exactly why the Australian felt like he belonged on the biggest stage of Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
Up against Novak Djokovic, playing in his record 32nd Grand Slam final, it was Kyrgios who coped better with the early nerves, racing through the first set.
And while the final scoreline, 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (3), was relatively convincing for the now seven-time champion, Kyrgios showed us what most already knew – he can play with anybody.
He said: “I felt like I belonged, to be honest. When I walked out there and got into that first service game of his as well, that helped a lot.
“My level has always been there. I feel like I've kind of put it together a little bit this week, these couple weeks.
“It takes a hell of an athlete mentally and physically to win one of these things. I think eight people have won this title since I've been born. It shows physically one thing, obviously it shows. Mentally it's another beast.”
Kyrgios’ on-court behaviour will always attract attention. After a relatively subdued opening set, he became increasingly frustrated with his box, as well as one inebriated fan who continually chimed in with words of support between and sometimes during points.
That frustration is part of the package with Kyrgios, it is hard to imagine he could ever get through a tense best-of-five match without it.
And yet you wonder if there were a way to conserve a little energy and keep some of that frustration bottled up.
Because when it comes down to pure talent, both Djokovic and the Serb’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, were glowing in their praise of the Australian.
The 2001 champion explained: “You cannot prepare a match against Nick Kyrgios. Nick Kyrgios is a genius, tennis genius. For me he is the best server in the game by far. He is an unbelievable tennis player. He is very unpredictable.
“So it's impossible to make tactics. There are no tactics. For 15 minutes, the best returner in the world, he did not touch his serve.”
The issue for Kyrgios was that where his level rose and fell, Djokovic never faltered. When Kyrgios was playing out of his skin in the first set, he won it, when he threw in a loose service game early in the second, Djokovic pounced.
Kyrgios has never lost a fifth set at Wimbledon and that record was almost tested here. Almost, but not quite, Djokovic was able to maintain a level of excellence that denied Kyrgios the chance.
Now with 21 Grand Slam titles to his name, and unbeaten on Centre Court since 2013, Djokovic marched inexorably towards victory, and Kyrgios admitted there was little he could do to stop it.
He added of Djokovic: “He's just really composed. It's weird, I felt like he didn't do anything amazing today. He returned obviously the way he returns. I feel like he's just a great returner. But he was just so composed. That's what I was just thinking to myself. In big moments, it just felt like he was never rattled.
“I feel like that's his greatest strength, he just never looks rattled. He just looks completely within himself the whole time. He didn't look like he was playing overaggressive, even though it felt like he was playing big.
“Hats off to him. That was a hell of a match. I thought I served well. I put myself in a position to win, but I just wasn't able to play those clutch points well at all today.”