September 29, 2022

Is it too late for Nick Kyrgios to be remembered in tennis as anything other than a petulant, obnoxious brat – with his on-court antics and regular outbursts eclipsing sublime talent?

The 27-year-old Australian has always had the ability to lose friends and alienate people, be they opponents, referees or spectators. But with that came an ability to knock fans out of their seats with scintillating serves, flashing forehands and dazzling displays of instinctive shooting.

It would be a heady mix in any sport – the talented but flawed maverick battling inner demons, Kyrgios repeatedly admitting to suffering from mental health issues as he waged a war on authority in most of his forms of tennis.


But the balance has strayed considerably away from any real achievement in the game, and far more towards an embarrassing litany of controversies, conflicts and clashes that have stymied his every step in the sport.

Put simply, Kyrgios has always polarized opinion with tennis’ most twee followers and administrators, not always one to welcome the bad-boy presence among them. But even his defenders and supporters seem to be starting to have a harder time finding excuses for him – including this pen pal.

The latest crisis came in a straight-set loss to Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the ATP tournament in Stuttgart, with the Australian scoring a point for breaking his racket after losing the opening set on a tie-break, then a game. after rowing with the referee and a spectator.

Kyrgios later claimed that he was the victim of racist abuse from the crowd, and this is something the ATP and tournament organizers need to investigate seriously and properly, putting aside his history of unrest and by examining thoroughly and on its merits the alleged case of racism. with all available evidence.

But his latest second-set meltdown in Germany, from a player who admitted to repeatedly ‘tanking’ or failing to try in the past – which also earned him fines – has even frustrated Murray, a longtime friend and frequent public supporter. .

The multiple Grand Slam winner expects at least a fight when he steps onto the court, and he admitted: “The second set wasn’t a lot of fun to play, it wasn’t very competitive. It wasn’t really a match, and that from a player who always showcased Kyrgios’ abilities and pushed him to one day win a Grand Slam.

Paul Annacone, Roger Federer’s former coach, raised eyebrows when he said in 2017 that Kyrgios was “the most talented player since Roger jumped onto the scene”. The shine, however, has only been sporadic – and the reputation marred by lack of success in the events that really matter, and the ever-growing rap sheet.

It’s already been a bad year in 2022. Kyrgios picked up a point and a fine for unsportsmanlike behavior and audible obscenity in an Indian Wells quarter-final loss to Rafael Nadal, a previous target of his wrath . In Miami, he was fined again after picking up a point and then a game against Jannik Sinner. And in Houston, he lost a point after a series of rude rants at the referee while playing against Reilly Opelka.

And that only adds to an undesirable resume in this regard, incidents of insulting officials, smashing rackets, opponents talking trash and not giving their best to sprinkle a professional career with nine years. And “box office” must mean more than just controversy. John McEnroe was tennis’ enfant terrible in the late 1970s and again in the 1980s – but he had the headlines to prove it.

Kyrgios has only reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam twice, in both places where he enjoys significant additional advantages – at Wimbledon on the fastest grass and in his home event at Melbourne at the Australian Open.

And the chances of a magical, barely believable Goran Ivanisevic-style run to a Wimbledon title seem at first glance beyond rational consideration. To win a Slam, you have to hold it for seven games and more than two weeks. Kyrgios seems to be finding it increasingly difficult to manage this over the course of a single set.

And yet… and yet. There was a time when you might have been able to draw whimsical parallels, if any, between Kyrgios and snooker ace and seven-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, who, endowed with even greater talent, had need the help of renowned sports psychiatrist Dr Steve. Peters to fully deliver his abilities.

In the 11 years they worked together, the Rocket – for the most part – stopped making so many derogatory comments about his own sport (largely a calling card of Kyrgios) and managed to process the triumph and the disaster with something approaching equilibrium. . It helped him face the 17-day Crucible Theater marathon four more times, after coming close to quitting.

And if Kyrgios really wants to show something off for his talent, he could do far worse than take Peters’ number off O’Sullivan, call him, and give himself the best chance of enjoying a run for glory. two weeks somewhere before. it’s too late.