September 25, 2022

Nick Kyrgios can be insufferable. Watching one of his matches is either getting an intimate glimpse of a tortured genius at work, or preparing for the collapse of an overgrown toddler in public.

His opponent arrives on the court, expecting to participate in a tennis match, while Kyrgios wakes up and chooses chaos. For three hours or more he exhibits unparalleled stamina – to be able to complain, chirp, pout, protect the code on the wicked streets of Wimbledon and wipe out the snitches and yet, somehow another, still have enough stamina to play tennis.

He, with his perma-frowning and petulant demeanor, is the anti-hero of tennis. He is then good for the game.

At least that’s what the legends of his sport have concluded, the media have wondered and even Kyrgios himself has proclaimed.

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For casual tennis fans, it’s the gateway drug. The habit-forming vice that will draw your attention to the sport, even if it leads you down a dark path of appreciating this professional more for his shenanigans than his skills.

He wears his hat backwards, prefers red Jordans to Wimbledon heavy white. Double loops are pierced in his left earlobe. This “bad boy” starter kit apparently makes it likable to the younger, easily amused crowd. Then, for those who prefer to consume their tennis in viral bite-sized chunks, whenever Kyrgios makes headlines for anything but playing tennis – belligerently dressing a referee or insulting a fan and attracting a spectator. innocent Ben Stiller in the spat – he gets them noticed.

Although, it should be noted, he never won a major tournament. He didn’t even win a tournament since 2019. So far, in almost a decade of being on the men’s ATP Tour, his highest ranking has been No. 13, and that was almost six years ago.

But when he faces No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic for the Wimbledon men’s singles championship – Kyrgios received a surprise when Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament with an abdominal injury – he chances are some sports fans who won’t be able to tell the difference between the US Open and the Citi Open will be up early Sunday to tune in.

“He’s brilliant for the match,” Chris Evert said on the ESPN telecast ahead of Kyrgios’ straight-set victory over Cristian Garin in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Sports like tennis that rely on singular stars need drama – and train wrecks, it seems.

According to Koepka, whatever sanitized beef there was between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka helped develop the game of golf. These YouTubers-turned-boxers, Jake and Logan Paul, may make the 40-plus crowd long for the day the internet was invented, but the millions generated from their pay-per-view fights have forced us to take them seriously (or at least see what it is). And though this nation has just enough bandwidth to bother with athletics once every four years, Sha’Carri Richardson still captivates viewers for being equal parts style icon and self-imploding sprinter.

These kind of athletes force the eyeballs to stare at the screens. While a big like Nadal – with his thinning hair that shows his age, but an unrivaled thirst for still dominance – might delight purists, his water bottle routine is unlikely to capture the attention of someone who doesn’t. could not name two current players. apart from Serena and Venus. Instead, Kyrgios smashing a racket and throwing a bird will do it.

He seems to know it, and on that run at Wimbledon, the best game of tennis he’s ever played at a major, Kyrgios let everyone know how important he is to the sport.

Some time after spitting in the direction of a rowdy fan and scolding a linesman for being a ‘snitch’, but before running poor Stefanos Tsitsipas to the manager’s office, Kyrgios recognized his worth .

“The crowd enjoyed today. It was just professional. That’s it,” said Kyrgios, after his second-round win. “I know what I bring to the sport. One of the most important people in sport. »

Although Kyrgios can pull off a shot so smooth it will make John McEnroe coo, those moments are overshadowed by his antics. Literally. His mid-match zinger towards the fan sitting next to Stiller in Indian Wells generated 9 million views on YouTube, more than double his winner between the legs against Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014.

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The year before this gem of a sleight of hand, he had turned professional as a brave 19-year-old Australian who possessed the gifts to return to the sport one day. But because Kyrgios can’t get out of his own way, he’s become more of a sideshow than a certifiable star. Further complicating his reputation, next month he will face an assault charge against a former girlfriend in his homeland.

Although acutely aware that drama attracts clicks and views, Kyrgios speaks as if he would rather choose tennis than his notoriety.

“I just wanted to, I don’t know, prove to people that I’m really good,” he said in one of his post-match interviews at Wimbledon. “I feel like I don’t have the respect sometimes, you know?”

Maybe he’d win over the diehards and command more respect if he just stopped clowning around in a one-man circus. For much of his career, he’s seemed indifferent to his fitness and potential, explaining why he doesn’t like the sport, backing out of games in front of booed fans and trying to prove that buzz and success don’t. must not be interleaved.

Nadal might have explained it better three years ago. He stressed that Kyrgios is not a villain – although Tsitsipas, who described him as having a “wicked” side, would probably disagree – but said he “lacks respect for the crowd, his opponent and to himself”.

Kyrgios thinks he’s good for the game, and some of the game’s greats think the same. Still, it might be better for tennis if one of his most attractive and confusing talents tries to just be good at tennis.