Sport has always loved its pantomime villains, and tennis is no different. John McEnroe spent much of his career conducting boos from the audience and engaging in vicious verbal spats with umpires (and occasionally opponents), but he had nothing on Australia’s Nick Kyrgios. Barely a month seems to go by without Kyrgios involving himself in some kind of on or off-court incident, and he found himself back in the headlines earlier this month for his meltdown in Cincinnati. Two broken racquets and a $170,000 fine later he’s free to continue playing, with the US Open his next theater.
There are some ways in which a controversial character can enhance the media profile of a
sport. When Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear, it was the most talked-about incident in boxing for decades. Michael Schumacher may be one of the greatest motor racing drivers of all time, but we can never forget the fact that on several occasions, he won by literally ramming his opponents off the track. Tyson and Schumacher got away with it because they were uniquely talented within their sports, and would have been collecting victories regardless of their sometimes undesirable behavior. Kyrgios has a problem by comparison – he generates just as much controversy, but doesn’t always appear to have the talent to justify tolerance from the authorities. Could we therefore one day reach a point where Kyrgios is told enough is enough, and he should consider finding a new way to earn money?
The Kyrgios Gamble
The problem with allowing Nick Kyrgios entry to competitions and tournaments is that you
never quite know which Kyrgios is going to turn up. Will it be the passionate, developing talent who can beat the best when his head is screwed on, or will it be the sulking ball of rage who smashes equipment and curses out umpires? He’s unpredictable. Kyrgios’ mentality is a little like the reels of a mobile slots game, with various factors working as the symbols on the reels.
Imagine the umpire as a symbol, and then Kyrgios’ opponent, and then the weather, or the
surface, or his state of mind on any given day. Playing mobile slots on website like Late slots casino, when you line the symbols up in the right order, you win a prize. Line them up in the wrong order, and you’ll win nothing. It’s possible to have fun doing this – both the ‘Tennis Stars’ and ‘Centre Court’ mobile slots games are popular with players – but tennis authorities aren’t playing mobile slots. They’re trying to run prestigious competitions, and they have an image to maintain. Too frequently, Kyrgios’ behavior is incompatible with that image. The symbols don’t line up favorably often enough to carry on rolling out the red carpet for him.
This isn’t to say that an on-form Kyrgios can’t be an asset. Just days before everything went so badly wrong for him at the Cincinnati Masters, Kyrgios had been in the news for all the right reasons for once. He won the Washington Open to bring home the sixth ATP title, and provide a timely reminder to onlookers that when the mood takes him, he can be a player to reckon with.
If that Nick Kyrgios was able to turn up more frequently than his Mr.Hyde-like angry persona, the occasional tantrum would be easier to stomach. Unfortunately, the ratio is all wrong, and even Andy Murray (who’s said to be his closest friend in the sport) has been forced to publicly state that the Australian’s recent actions haven’t been good for the game he loves.
The Rap Sheet In Full
Kyrgios’ name has been linked with bad behavior in the press so many times that it sometimes feels like he’s been around the sport for a decade or more. In reality, he’s still only 24 years old.
During that time, the number of run-ins he’s had with tennis (and other) authorities is
staggering. Here are some of the ‘highlights’:-
US Open 2014: Kyrgios appears on the disciplinary radar for the first time after smashing several racquets in frustration, and directing repeated obscenities at umpires.
Wimbledon 2015: Kyrgios was accused of deliberately failing to return serves in a match against Richard Gasquet, which he went on to lose (a practice known as ‘tanking’). Kyrgios denied the accusations at the time, but during interviews in 2017 admitted that he hadn’t put his best efforts in during several tournaments during his career because he simply hadn’t felt like playing tennis on the day of his matches.
Rogers Cup 2015: Kyrgios’ line in aggressive banter went too far when, mid-match, he suggested to opponent Stan Wawrinka that a rival player had been intimately involved with his girlfriend.
Later in the match, he’d suggest that Wawrinka was interested in young girls, and also made an off-color remark to a ball boy who he felt was taking too long. He was fined and banned for a month, but both penalties were suspended on the condition of good behavior going forward.
Shanghai Masters 2016: Kyrgios again tanked, and this time didn’t make any effort to hide it. He lost both sets of his second-round match within 50 minutes, and directly asked the umpire to allow him to forfeit the match and go home. He was fined, and then fined again when he suggested that fans who disapproved of his approach to the game shouldn’t bother coming to watch him.
Australian Open 2016: Taking his contempt for the sport to a new level, Kyrgios outraged officials by stopping to take a phone call while he was on the court for a mix doubles contest.
When umpires and officials objected to this, he swore at them and attracted further fines.
Queens Club 2018: Opponent Marin Cilic becomes the latest target of Kyrgios’ ire, with the Australian making an obscene gesture toward him during a changeover period. The action netted him a $17,500 fine.
Rome Masters 2019: The biggest blow-up until Cincinnati. Kyrgios earned himself a disqualification from the tournament after kicking bottles, throwing a chair onto the court, hurling abuse at a line judge and generally behaving aggressively and erratically. His actions cost him all the money he earned at the tournament, and he was billed for the accommodation and food that organizers laid on for him.
Too Late To Change His Ways?
As we mentioned earlier, Kyrgios is still only 24 years old. There’s still time for him to mature and change his behavior – but only if he wants to. Sadly, there’s little indication that he does.
Just two years ago, after a lackluster departure to John Millman at the US Open, he admitted that he has no affection for tennis, and only plays it because he can make money from doing so.
He much prefers basketball, and spends his time watching that instead of training.
We all enjoy the Kyrgios circus from time to time, but every circus eventually leaves town. At this point, Kyrgios is probably one more major disciplinary issue away from being asked to pack down the tent.