Nick Kyrgios has just seven weeks and three tournaments to slash his ranking in half or face more heavy-duty grand-slam roadblocks at the US Open.
Gutted by his fourth-round Wimbledon loss to Andy Murray, Kyrgios at least departed the All England Club with his career-high world No.18 ranking intact.
But until the 21-year-old cracks the top eight, the two-time major quarter-finalist continue being at the mercy of the tennis gods at grand slam draws.
A priceless top-eight seeding would protect Kyrgios from striking any of the sport’s big guns – including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer – until at least the quarter-finals.
Kyrgios couldn’t hide his frustration at running into a merciless Murray in the fourth round at the All England Club.
“My record here is 10-3, I think. Every time I come here, I lose to good players,” he lamented.
“But it’s just disappointing. I don’t know. I just want to do better.”
Kyrgios’s frustration is understandable given he’s never lost to an unseeded opponent, let alone a lower-ranked player, at a major.
It is an extraordinary record that not even Djokovic, Murray, Federer or Rafael Nadal could boast of 13 slams into their grand careers.
But despite his meteoric rise from world No.144 when he conquered Nadal at Wimbledon two years ago to his current standing as the youngest player in the men’s top 20, Kyrgios remains vulnerable at grand slam draw time.
In his 13 majors since making his main-draw debut as an 18-year-old at the 2013 French Open, Kyrgios has lost four times to Murray and twice each to dual grand slam semi-finalists Milos Raonic and Richard Gasquet.
His other five defeats have come at the hands of 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, former grand slam finalists Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer and seeds Tommy Robredo and Benoit Paire.
Now Australia’s most exciting prospect faces the tennis equivalent of mission impossible to secure a top-eight seeding for Flushing Meadows.
Scheduled to play Washington, Cincinnati and Toronto before the US Open, Kyrgios would need to win at least two of the three lead-up events, two of which are Masters 1000s that demand mandatory attendance from the world’s elite.
NICK KYRGIOS’S GRAND SLAM DEFEATS (PREFIX DENOTES OPPONENTS SEEDING):
Australian Open 2016: lost 3rd rd to 6-Tomas Berdych
US Open 2015: lost 1st rd to 3-Andy Murray
Wimbledon 2015: lost 4th rd to 20-Richard Gasquet
French Open 2015: lost 3rd rd to 3-Andy Murray
Australian Open 2015: lost QF to 6-Andy Murray
US Open 2014: lost 3rd rd to 18-Tommy Robredo
Wimbledon 2014: lost QF to 9-Milos Raonic
French Open 2014: lost 1st rd to 9-Milos Raonic
Australian Open 2014: lost 2nd rd to 28-Benoit Paire
US Open 2013: lost 1st rd to 4-David Ferrer
Wimbledon 2013: didn’t qualify
French Open 2013: lost 2nd rd to 11-Marin Cilic