If Nick Kyrgios again decides not to follow the ATP Tour, he faces virtually a two-year absence from the game.

If Nick Kyrgios again decides not to follow the ATP Tour as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, he faces virtually a two-year absence from the game.

That’s the concerning reality, as spelled out by Australian tennis great Todd Woodbridge, who fears for Kyrgios’ career in that scenario.

If Kyrgios again opts against international travel and the pandemic does not ease, his brief Australian summer campaign will be the only tennis amid two wiped-out years.

Kyrgios made a spectacular exit from the Australian Open, losing in five sets to third seed and major winner Dominic Thiem. It was a reminder of his brilliance, seizing a two sets to love lead in complete defiance of rankings, before his slide to defeat marked the gap between Kyrgios and the top players.

“Nick gave us everything Nick does; point penalty, all sorts of stuff, a broken racquet here and a ball over there. But he stayed focused and he played seriously good tennis,” Woodbridge said on Wide World of Sports’ The Morning Serve.

“Now the question is, what happens for the rest of the year? For me, I get the feeling he probably won’t travel. I don’t think he’s going to feel at all comfortable going away with the current scenario, it’s no better; in fact, it’s worse than what it was when he chose not to go in the first place.

“And that’s going to be really tough. That would almost mean two years out of the game.

“And to play as well as he did here, with absolutely, really, no preparation, I thought was an extraordinary performance. But what does that do to his career? That’s going to be a big question if he doesn’t go again.”

Woodbridge said that while the first layoff probably helped Kyrgios, a second may be damaging. He said that the maverick star, who turns 26 in April, needed to lift his conditioning if he was to compete for Grand Slams.

“The first thing about having this last 12 months away from the game, I actually think is going to help extend his career. So I think that part of it was a good thing.

“If he doesn’t go again, that’s going to be difficult. What that match showed me [against Thiem] is that tennis-wise, yes, absolutely capable.

“But what it hopefully showed him, and I think he knows this, is that his opponent is a physical beast and if you want to win Grand Slams, you have to be in that same shape. Is he prepared to go and do the one percenters that guys like Thiem, Djokovic, that Federer have done, that Nadal do?

“That’s the question and only he can answer. It’s there, if he wants it.”

Nick Kyrgios of Australia reacts in his Men's Singles third round match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during day five of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 12, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.

The ATP Tour moves through the Middle East, North American and Europe in coming months, and right through to the end of the season in November. There are few tour stops where COVID-19 is not currently rife, especially compared with Australia, and Kyrgios’ willingness to travel remains to be seen.

Kyrgios said before the Open that he had finally found a passion for tennis again, despite retaining a “love-hate” relationship with the game.

He clearly thrived in front of Australian supporters again, though he could not quite get over the line against a top opponent like Thiem. It remains to be seen whether he cares either way about ever contending for a Grand Slam; he’s still done no better than a pair of quarter-final appearances (Wimbledon 2014 and Australian Open 2015) and his last trip to the final eight of a major was six years ago.

Kyrgios reacted furiously to a character analysis from tennis great Martina Navratilova after bowing out against Thiem, in which she questioned his maturity and concluded: “I don’t know if he is a good bad guy or a bad good guy, but he’s both.”

Kyrgios responded on Twitter: “YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT ME.”

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