Rod Laver: ‘Kyrgios too old for outbursts’
HE'S Australia's "greatest sporting ambassador", who is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of becoming the only tennis player in history to sweep two Grand Slams.
But the advice Rod Laver passes on to those who ask the secret to a perfect game of tennis is remarkably simple.
"If the ball's there, you give it a nudge," Laver offers.
Laver, 81, was recognised at a celebration at New York's Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday, local time.
In town for the US Open, he said he was humbled for the continuing recognition of winning the Australian, French, British and US Open championships in 1968 and 1969.
No male tennis player has taken a grand slam series since.
The humble Laver also gave his assessment of Australian tennis including the controversial Nick Kyrgios, currently ranked 30th in the world.
Laver offered that he thinks Kyrgios has the talent to become world champion, but not the right attitude.
"He won a tournament about a month ago, so potentially he has it in him, but he has to control his ability to play matches on the court, and you know, not get too wrapped up in outside interferences," Laver said.
Laver said Kyrgios, 24, was "not a youth anymore" and getting too old to blame his age for his outbursts.
The legendary player admitted he was disappointed at Australia's showing in the 2019 US Open and that he had expected world number one, Ash Barty to reach the finals.
"Unfortunately Ash Barty lost early but I thought she may have been able to go out there and do it," Laver said.
"For the ladies, we can't go past Serena (Williams). I mean, Serena has been out practising a little more and I think she's won so many tournaments without practising.
"Each match she plays, that's her practice, it's amazing to see how good she is.
"When she's in trouble she can pull off unbelievable shots."
For the men's title, he predicts that if it's Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer match-up, then Nadal is "probably edged above Roger".
Laver, who mainly played grass courts with a "little old wooden racquet", said much had changed in tennis.
He described modern players as far more physical and said that more is asked of them.
"Even just the rallying that goes on, there are 20 to 30 hits in a rally now, you've got to be very talented but also you've got to be the fittest," he said.
Australia's Consul General in New York, Alistair Walton, praised Laver as "a role model for our country but also for the game of tennis itself".
"When you look at the dominance today of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer and to think they have won several Grand Slams themselves, but no-one has actually done what Rod has done for 50 years," Walton said.