Tennis: Love him or hate him, Kyrgios has our attention

There is only one word to describe Nick Kyrgios: “polarising”.

Now that Kyrgios’ 2017 campaign is over, tennis will most likely become an afterthought for many Aussie sports fans until the lead-up to the Australian Open in January. Apart from our admiration and affection for Roger Federer, the majority of tennis headlines we’re interested in usually involve Kyrgios.

Rarely has an Australian sporting athlete divided opinion quite like Nick Kyrgios. It seems not only does everyone have an opinion, they’re compelled to express it. 

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Here we have a young man, a young Aussie, who could have the tennis world at his feet. Kyrgios has the potential and the ability to become a grand slam champion and a world number one He’s currently ranked 20th in the world, he’s beaten most of the current top-ranked players and he represents Australia in the Davis Cup.

So he must be pretty good, right? 

Unfortunately most of Australia’s sporting public either don’t know or don’t care if he’s any good at tennis, because the only Kyrgios headlines we’re drawn to are the ones relating to his off-court indiscretions and poor on-court behaviour.

If an article headline read, “Kyrgios scores upset win over Nadal after epic mid-match meltdown”, the only part of the article we’d be interested in would be his mid-match meltdown. Then we’ll jump on the internet to express our opinions.

The most popular opinion quotes are “Kyrgios is a flog” and “Kyrgios is a national embarrassment”. However, every few posts you’ll get someone who comments on the win and acknowledges Kyrgios’s tennis prowess – but then that comment will be met with more criticism by others.

Some of you even call for Kyrgios to be banned. “A 12-month ban will sort him out,” you reckon. Well, unless he does something that’s absolutely reprehensible beyond belief, he won’t cop a ban. He’s a human headline. He’s free publicity for any tournament or grand slam he participates him. Tennis Australia knows that and so does the ITF.

I have a few questions for everyone: Is Nick Kyrgios really our most embarrassing sportsperson? What about the behaviour from some of our footballers? What about the behaviour from some of our cricketers? What about Anthony ‘The Man’ Mundine?

Kyrgios has never been embroiled in sex scandals, drug scandals, domestic violence or alcohol-related incidents. He hasn’t physically abused officials at junior tournaments and he sure as hell hasn’t dry-humped a dog on Australia Day. 

As far as I’m aware the only indiscretions on the part of Kyrgios has been on-court temper tantrums, outbursts directed at match officials and digs at the media during press conferences. Occasionally he may not put in 100 per cent with his performances, and there was also the infamous sledge directed at Stan Wawrinka about his girlfriend.    

Anthony Mundine sledges and talks himself up better than he boxes. The Australian cricket team are notorious for some of the most brutal and brazen sledges in the history of sport. Player-related scandals rock the AFL and NRL every second week.

But for any other professional sportsperson we tend to sweep their indiscretions under the carpet as long as they’re winning games for the teams we support. 

I’m also amazed at how Kyrgios is portrayed by the media. They love taking advantage of his bad behaviour because they can use their articles and news stories to bag him out, knowing it will generate plenty of interest.

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Then Kyrgios will show glimpses of his potential, play his heart out and defeat a big name opponent. You know the media will be full of praise and the “Kyrgios has turned the corner” stories will be published, but only until his next temper tantrum so the media can go back to bagging him out again.

So what is it going to take for everyone to jump on the Kyrgios express and support him?

Does he need to save a litter of cute puppies from a burning building? Perhaps he needs to change his ways and become a positive role model for the children. But my guess is he just needs to win tournaments and grand slam titles.

There are many sporting champions who are idolised, revered and admired who weren’t so innocent before they became champions. Roger Federer was a tennis brat before he became the greatest of all time. Johnathan Thurston had his run-ins with police before he became rugby league’s most loved and respected icons. Ricky Ponting was a hot head before he became one of Australia’s greatest ever batsman. Then there’s Shane Warne. Where do I start with Warnie? It doesn’t matter because Warnie is a bloody legend.

I don’t believe the Australian sporting public’s relationship with Kyrgios is one of hatred; I believe it’s more like fascination. We’re so fascinated by Kyrgios that many of us aren’t even fans of tennis. We just love a good Kyrgios story. We can’t get enough of this polarising figure.

What are the chances that ten years from now we’ll view Nick Kyrgios as one of our finest? There’s a pretty good chance of that happening. All he has to do is start winning. 

Featured Image: si.robi