Nick Kyrgios brings to the table of tennis as much attention as anyone ever has done over the previous decade. Yet the unquestionable talent of the titanic Greek-Aussie is being overshadowed by his seeming inability to keep his head clear.
In an environment when a small lapse in concentration can be the difference between a point won and a point lost, Kyrgios demonstrates the kind of performances of a man constantly at war with those around him in situations created only by himself, thus completely encasing his on-court performance.
As I write this, he has lost in four sets to Tomas Berdych in a match remembered for Kyrgios’ continual arguing with the umpire – thus adding an extra dimension to a story that should have been billed as the first big name tie of the tournament. Yet Kyrgios has, once again, made all the wrong headlines for his eccentric antics that have perpetuated since he began to make a name for himself.
In the 2015 U.S. Open against Andy Murray, Kyrgios had to be warned time after time for his conduct, including swearing, and racquet abuse. Such signs of frustration are part and parcel of some players game, but falling asleep in his chair was jest, if not irritating, and when he made several derogatory comments aimed at Stan Wawrinka’s girlfriend, and Wawrinka himself, that was a step too far.
Tennis is no stranger to players with livewire attitudes, John McEnroe a testament to such personalities. However, amongst Mac’s frustrations and outbursts came an undeniable drive to play tennis at the top level and conquer it. His arrogance a convincing factor of a man who won three Wimbledon titles, to add to his four other Grand Slam victories, and his confrontational behaviour sometimes excused as the traits of a man who simply wanted to win.
Kyrgios is tennis latest ‘livewire’. Yet right now, he does not possess the drive McEnroe exhibited, and seems to be developing tags as ‘petulant’ and ‘crowd pleaser’, rather than ‘winner’. The obvious tanking he showed during last years Wimbledon tie against Richard Gasquet a sign he is not out to win. Maybe his temperament is the reason he is currently without a coach?
Perhaps we should not judge him too quickly. After all, he is still only 20 years of age, and yet to mature as a person and as an athlete. The signs are there that he could become one of the world’s best players, including his knockouts of Rafa Nadal, and Roger Federer. Kyrgios is developing his arsenal as a big serving player, with a lashing forehand combined with a drop shot as tender as a lamb. His 6ft 4in frame, while a double edged sword, pays tribute to his confidence at exquisite hot dog shots, and his fondness for aggressive, oft fearless attack from in front of the baseline.
But his antics are ruining his tennis game. So he now has to face a choice of whether to play on, of play up…