Tantrum monarch Nick Kyrgios was bundled out by 21st seed Richard Gasquet of France in the 4R of Wimbledon Championships, 2015 (Payback indeed!! – Last year Kyrgios came back from two sets to love down, and saved nine match points over the fourth and fifth sets to beat the Frenchman in a 5-set thriller in the 2R).
Wimbledon 2015 has been all about characters and white clothing on the pristine lawns further augments any such moment or behaviour which emerges on the greens. One big example at this year’s event was the fiery Bob-Marley lookalike Dustin Brown who went on to galvanize the entire tennis world with not only his monster dreadlocks but also his awe-inspiring tennis against one of the all-time legends Rafa Nadal. This was possibly the moment which actually stimulated this year’s championship into life.
Nick Kyrgios kept the SW 19 crowd engrossed not only with his tennis but also with his antics. He was at the top of the character list for the 2 weeks and his loss to Gasquet leaves us with his final image of marching off the aisle.
Masses gathered to watch the Unpredictable Australian so they could see in what routine he would throw his dummy out of his pram, and during the build up to Monday’s match, media channels had been oversupplied with analysis as to whether his deportment is good, bad or ugly for the sport. It is an even more appealing scenario that Kyrgios set free his whiplash spoken attacks on chair umpires & line judges, racket-smashing and quirky press conferences for the most courteous tennis tournament in the world.
His distinct volatility and capability on court, his erratic style, tendency to fly off the handle and talk to himself have agitated public curiosity. We love it when tennis players sulk and lose their temper. And Kyrgios definitely sulks, as was in proof early on in Monday’s second set when he took annoyance at an umpiring call and then stopped trying for the rest of the game. His brand of crabbiness seems at times unbelievably artificial, and was in this case an insult to the paying audience, who began to boo and lose their cool.
Kyrgios, like John McEnroe, may prove to be a welcome contrast, if he becomes very good. If history is anything to go by, though, Kyrgios might need to sort himself out. Down the years the composed, cool players win at tennis and Roger Federer is the latest in a long line of collected tennis champions. Following Bjorn Borg came Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras and then Federer, all with strikingly similar dispositions on court. Presumably they weren’t the “characters” we admire today, but in my book, heroes such as these play sport the best way. They didn’t go around shouting, fist-pumping and making people laugh, but they prove that nice guys win.
When an athlete is undemonstrative, they often come in for criticism. One of the worst words used is “passion” – if you don’t scream and shout and show outward signs then you apparently lack it. Kyrgios or McEnroe would have more passion than Federer on that basis. But to conclude that Federer could ever lack passion after winning seven Wimbledons and devoting his life to the sport is surely preposterous. People seem to get muddled about how an athlete’s outward respect and good demeanour on a sporting field relates to his aggression in competition. Nice and aggressive can go together.
It’s different depending on the sport. There seem to be few exponents of men’s football who show respect and inward channelling of emotions because this is simply not how the game is played. Imagine a player who stayed detached and who didn’t react brusquely to refereeing decisions – they would be vilified by coaches and supporters for evincing a lack of enthusiasm or hunger.
All sports benefit from personalities who show emotion, excitement and sometimes impetuosity but for every McEnroe there’s a Borg, for every Agassi there’s a Sampras, for every Ronaldo there’s a Messi. And the quiet ones are zealous too.