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TENNIS

Wimbledon glory beckons, but Australia is wary of embracing ‘Nincompoop Nick’ Kyrgios

Wimbledon glory beckons, but Australia is wary of embracing ‘Nincompoop Nick’ Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios during his Wimbledon quarterfinal match against Cristian Garín on 6 July 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Neil Hall)

Tennis’ bad boy Nick Kyrgios is in the final after Rafael Nadal withdrew through injury, and winning the sport’s most prestigious title might wash away all his previous sins in the eyes of his compatriots. Unsurprisingly, however, they might be holding their breath.

Nick Kyrgios’s transformation from doubles entertainer to Grand Slam singles finalist is one of the more remarkable tennis stories of the year, but Australian fans could be excused a little caution before embracing his Wimbledon success.

His response to Rafael Nadal withdrawing from their Wimbledon semifinal on Thursday was charged with the sort of respect that has defined the interaction between top players in this golden era of men’s tennis.

“Different players, different personalities,” he posted on Instagram. “I hope your recovery goes well and we all hope to see you healthy soon. Till next time…”

Kyrgios’s long track record of straying from the path of mutual respect, however, has many Down Under holding their breath and awaiting the return of what one local newspaper this week dubbed “Nincompoop Nick”.

From on-court meltdowns, smashed racquets, accusations of tanking and an infamous sledge of Stan Wawrinka through to his regular abuse of umpires, barely a tournament goes by without Kyrgios attracting the ire of officialdom.

Nick Kyrgios reacts after defeating Cristian Garín in the Wimbledon quarterfinals on 6 July 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Neil Hall)

Even on the march to his maiden Grand Slam singles final there have been two incidents deemed worthy of fines from the All England Club that have left some of his compatriots embarrassed, others seething. 

There followed the news that he would be in court next month in Canberra on a charge of common assault of a former girlfriend. 

‘More mature’

There has never been any doubt of the 27-year-old’s talent, nor shortage of theories to explain why he hasn’t fulfilled it yet – both from Kyrgios himself and the media.

“I just feel like I’m more mature,” he said after his quarterfinal victory over Cristian Garín.

“I think earlier in my career if I made a third, fourth or quarterfinals, I’d be on my phone a lot, I would be engaging online a lot, would be keen to go out to dinner… I feel like it’s literally just been as simple as getting some rest. Like, ‘Nick, stay in the house’. That’s not always been the easiest thing for me over my career.”

Given the ups and downs of his career, it is not perhaps too surprising that earlier in 2022 Kyrgios had apparently resigned himself to a career where he would entertain in the early rounds of Grand Slam singles and target doubles titles.

Nick Kyrgios marched into the Wimbledon semis after defeating Cristian Garín on 6 July 2022, and is into the final after Rafael Nadal withdrew through injury. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Neil Hall)

Partnering with his friend Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open, the “Special Ks” attracted raucous crowds and won a men’s doubles title that Kyrgios described as the “number-one” achievement of his career.

It was, however, ultimately a sideshow as Ash Barty ended the country’s long wait for a singles title at Melbourne Park before retiring to the acclaim of a nation.

‘Same goal’

Barty’s career was famously transformed when she built a team around her to deflect the pressure and it looks like Kyrgios may have taken a leaf out of her book, even if he still regularly berates his entourage from the court.

“I think everyone has the same goal in my team, that’s why it’s working,” he said this week. “We all know what we’ve come here to do. I made it pretty known to them that I wanted to go pretty deep here and possibly even raise the trophy.”

Read in Daily Maverick: “Nick Kyrgios charged with assaulting ex while he storms into yet another row at Wimbledon

If he does manage to beat Novak Djokovic or Cameron Norrie in Sunday’s final, it may be that winning the most prestigious title in tennis will wash away all his previous sins in the eyes of his compatriots.

“I’ve mellowed regarding Kyrgios,” columnist Darren Kane wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday.

“Not completely, mind you, (but) analysing things through any sort of objective lens, Kyrgios’s high-spirited mischief doesn’t really rate on the atrocity-meter.” Reuters/DM

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  • Nick Griffon says:

    Having been an avid tennis fan since the days of McEnroe vs Borg, I have never been a greater Djokovic fan in my life. I cannot stand the thought of this clown winning a Wimbledon title. Please Novak, do not let this happen.

    While I can see and appreciate his talent, he brings the sport into disrepute with his constant complaining and theatrics.
    If he would just STFU and play the game it would go a long way!!

  • Peter Doble says:

    Very unusual for an Aussie not to support their own countryman. But in the case of such an arrogant, ignorant, unsportsmanlike character, even they have to draw the line.

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