Nick Kyrgios savours reaching a place he never expected to be | Simon Cambers

Nick Kyrgios would not dispute that his path to a first grand slam final has been one littered with obstacles. Many of them have been self-inflicted, false dawns dashed by poor behaviour or moments when he seemed not to give his all. His critics have questioned whether he worked hard enough, asking whether a fear of failure was stopping him from fulfilling his undoubted talent.

At times, Kyrgios has questioned whether it was all worth it. When he revealed, earlier this year, that he’d had thoughts of taking his own life and depression in 2019, he offered an insight into his mind. All along the way, people have questioned whether he had the desire, the commitment, the dedication required to win one of the sport’s biggest titles.

At 27, the Australian is into his first grand slam final, something he never expected. “I never thought,” he said. “I never thought I’d be here at all, to be brutally honest with you. Obviously when I was No 1 junior in the world and I was playing here as a junior … I never thought that I’d be playing. I saw some of the professionals walking around and I’d be a junior here, and I never thought I’d be playing for the actual men’s title. I feel like it’s the pinnacle of tennis. Once you are able to raise a grand slam trophy, that’s like, I mean, kind of what else is there to achieve? So I never thought I’d be here. I’m just super-proud and I’m just ready to go. I’m going to give it my all and we’ll see what happens.”

If Kyrgios never thought he would be here, he always thought he had the ability. This is a man who beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon when he was 19, who beat Roger Federer the first time he played him and who holds a 2-0 winning record against Novak Djokovic, the man he will play in Sunday’s final. From a boy who struggled with his weight – he posted a photo on Instagram on Friday of himself as a young child – he is one match away from the biggest title in the world.

“I think it’s honestly an inspiration for any sort of kid who’s kind of been outcasted or just been surrounded by negative headlines or negative clouds or been brought down from a lot of different angles,” he said. “I feel like most people around me at some stage in my life have lost belief that I would ever make a grand slam final, doubted me a little bit in my behaviour or just the way I trained. I think everyone, it’s safe to say. That’s fine they doubted me, but I never lost belief in myself. I think that’s just a strong message for any kid who doubts himself. Just keep going. Look at that photo, I literally look like Manny from Modern Family.”

Kyrgios reached the final after Nadal’s withdrawal through injury, the Spaniard deciding his abdominal tear would get worse if he tried to play. The decision means Kyrgios gets a couple of days of extra rest, which will help physically but also breaks his rhythm. When you are appearing in a first grand slam final, that is not always a good thing.

“I had a think about that last night,” he said. “I definitely feel like I’ve been playing in a pretty good routine. You kind of play a match at a grand slam, then you know deep down that you have one day to wind down and let yourself relax and then go again. At a grand slam you want to have those matches … you want to have the adrenaline. I’m going to have to go into the final without that semi-final kind of experience. But that’s OK. I’m going to take every positive. I get to rest my body a little bit. It’s not bad going in there feeling fresh.”

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The one thing Kyrgios does need, though, is some proper rest. “I probably got an hour’s sleep just with everything, like the excitement,” he said. “I had so much anxiety, I was already feeling so nervous, and I don’t feel nervous usually.

“The one thing for sure, whether I win or lose on Sunday, I’m going to be happy. It’s such a great achievement that I thought I’d never be a part of. Especially at 27, I thought it was the later stages of my career. But I just never thought it would be right here. I have a chance.”