Nick Kyrgios has gone from the enfant terrible to the international COVID-19 cop of tennis over the last extraordinary year. Now will the 25-year-o
Nick Kyrgios has gone from the enfant terrible to the international COVID-19 cop of tennis over the last extraordinary year. Now will the 25-year-old, who still argued with an umpire in a warm-up event this week, show this new maturity in the Australian Open?
Kyrgios’ talent has never been in question – his attitude has been the problem. From tanking matches, fines, bans and telling Stan Wawrinka during a match that another player had “banged” his girlfriend, he was never far from controversy.
He exploded onto the tennis scene by sensationally beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014 to reach the quarter-finals but has never been further in a Grand Slam as he threatened to waste his fearsome weapons of a massive serve and a ferocious forehand.
But something changed in Kyrgios – and his relationship with the Aussie public – at the start of a tumultuous 2020. He fought back the tears in a courtside interview last January at the ATP Cup after pledging to donate A$200 for every ace – and was followed by other Aussie stars.
“I don’t really care about the praise too much,” he claimed. “We’ve got the ability and the platform to do something.”
And the huge NBA fan cried again when he walked out on court wearing a LA Lakers shirt in honour of Kobe Bryant before losing to Nadal in the fourth round in Melbourne.
During the pandemic, Kyrgios did not play for 344 days but did not disappear from view. Instead, the player who was slapped with a record US$113,000 fine at the 2019 Cincinnati Masters, has shown how the world has changed by becoming the sport’s moral conscience.
He called Novak Djokovic’s summer staging of the Adria Tour a “boneheaded decision” – and then last month branded the world No 1 “a tool” for calling for an easing in the quarantine conditions for tennis stars Down Under.
Kyrgios told CNN: “We are colleagues at the end of the day and no-one else was really holding him accountable. Everyone loses their way a little bit but I think he just needed to pull it back
“I am not doing this for media attention or anything. These are the morals I have been brought up with. I was just trying to do my part.
But has he really changed? In his second round match at the Murray River Open, he clashed with Nacho Forcadell after the chair umpire called a tight time violation.
World No.47 Kyrgios, who has been nursing a left knee injury, sat down on strike and then told the supervisor: “Tennis isn’t about him. He’s an extra so all this **** goes smoothly.
“He’s a smart arse and now I have to get fined for it. Why do these guys think it’s about him?”
Now with the Australian Open starting on Monday, is it going to be all about Nick Kyrgios?