9 July 2019

Is Nick Kyrgios the most polarising yet compelling figure in Australian sport?

| Tim Gavel
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Nick Kyrgios - Brisbane International 2019

Nick Kyrgios seems to take pleasure in rocking the boat. File photo.

Everybody, it seems, has an opinion about Nick Kyrgios. He is either the most entertaining figure in a sport struggling for personalities, or he is a renegade with little respect for the traditions of tennis.

For good measure, the anti-Kyrgios brigade will also add a ‘wasted talent’, rivalling Mark Philippoussis and Bernard Tomic.

What isn’t up for debate is his attraction at the box office. Just ask Channel 7 who came under fire last week for showing Kyrgios ahead of women’s world number one, Australia’s Ash Barty. And what a star she is!

The large audience wanting to watch Krygios though indicates that he is a ratings magnet. So for everybody who says they will never watch him again, there are just as many attracted to watch his, at times, brilliant vaudeville-come-tragedy style of play.

But we can’t forget that his attraction is backed up by his success in majors with two quarterfinal appearances, which is the highest he has achieved, with the last being at the Australian Open in 2015.

There is a generation that perhaps see his personality as a reflection of their own rebellion towards conformity, while there are others of an older demographic who see his behaviour as a reflection of their concerns about the next generation.

At 24 years of age, Kyrgios seems to have settled on a persona that is part anti-hero, part entertainer, with tennis secondary to the former. In many respects, despite his antics on and off the court, there appears to be a certain amount of pleasure in rocking the boat, which at times is usually stationary.

His comments after the loss to Nadal at Wimbledon were telling; “I know what I am capable of; just depends. I’m a great tennis player, but I don’t do the other stuff. I’m not the most professional guy. I won’t train day-in-day-out. I won’t show up every day.”

The match, it has to be said, was one of the more outstanding I’ve viewed for a long time, as Kyrgios showed more than a glimpse of capabilities.

What followed in the press conference though, while highly entertaining, was troubling.

The concern I have with his comments is that it can be perceived as belittling those who are trying to do their best and put in maximum effort at all times. A little humility and empathy wouldn’t go astray.

In the eyes of some, he is perhaps the most honest tennis player on the circuit. Perhaps he is even considered the most honest sportsperson in professional sport. Hard to imagine too many in a professional team sport saying they may not show up every day. That’s not to say they don’t have off-days because they didn’t put in the effort.

So where to from here? Does he continue with the renegade approach, which shows no sign of affecting his marketing capabilities, or will he come to the realisation that he can be both an entertainer, and a Grand Slam winner?

Personally, I think Kyrgios needs a coach that he believes in, a coach who understands what Kyrgios wants out of life and can organise tennis to be a part of that.

Not that my opinion or anyone else’s has any bearing on what he is likely to do next. Perhaps that’s what’s so interesting about Kyrgios, we never quite know what’s in store!

Having beaten the likes of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray he has shown his enormous talent but in the end, talent will only get you part of the way.

In the meantime, Kyrgios remains an enigma, likely to keep dividing the opinions of sports fans throughout the world.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on The RiotACT.

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Diana Hockley5:10 pm 13 Jul 19

When Nick Kyrgios first arrived on the tennis scene, I was delighted. They called him Wild Thing and he was humble, brilliant and fun, so it is with regret that I see him wasting his talent and being a bumptious little twerp. Insulting top players, such as Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal hardly endears himself to the tennis players – and he does need friends on the circuit whether he admits it or not – is not the way to go. Many fans are sick of his antics, many fans think he is the “bee’s knees” but I don’t. This makes me sad and angry that he is insulting his fellow players in the ranks as well. I think he needs to decide whether he really wants to play tennis or choose some other avenue, though he has probably left it too late to change his sport. If he thinks he is emulating McInroe and will one day be “beloved” then I doubt this will happen. He has not proved himself a good enough player for that. McInroe didn’t “tank” when he got sick of playing.

I’d love Kyrgios to get a coach – but he already plays natural tennis to the highest level. He needs someone he can trust absolutely – but he doesn’t trust anyone because he has always been used, is being used, and everyone wants a piece of him. We set him up (he won four junior slams) then slam him down without attempting to understand what he’s going through; we don’t accept that his growing body could be injured; we don’t accept that constant huge pressure from the industry and media could cause massive depression; we don’t allow him to be human. I think (but who am I) he desperately needs someone in his corner who can affirm who he is rather than continually attempting to destroy him, allow him to develop and grow. At present, despite huge support through social media (he is in the top ten tenistas for clicks) he has huge numbers of truly disgusting comments every day of his life, mostly racial. Australians seem to have a huge problem with multicultural sportspeople. It shames me. Take heart Nick!

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