There’s no Australian sportsperson more watchable, no tennis player more authentic, and no public figure more mischaracterised than Nick Kyrgios. Whether you care to admit it or not, he’s great for tennis.
At 27, he’s already an Aussie icon and the judgemental mob which dissects his every misstep neglects one critical point: professional sport is about entertainment. It’s real-life drama. It’s a movie with the actors playing themselves, without the guidance of a script. In the purest sense of the word, Kyrgios is entertaining. You cannot possibly argue against this.
Into the late hours of the night here in Australia, previously apathetic tennis fans are slamming Red Bulls and brewing coffees so they don’t miss a single minute of the Nick Kyrgios show. And what a superb show it’s been at Wimbledon thus far. A quarter-final berth has him just one win away from a potential date against Rafael Nadal in a repeat of the epic 2014 clash which saw Kyrgios stun the Spanish superstar against all odds.
Could he win it? He may never get a better chance.
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Nick Kyrgios, in all his glory, is a wildman. He’s got John McEnroe’s snarl coupled with the temperament of an angsty teenager. His tongue is sharp enough to slice right through kevlar. His on-court talent is securing a chapter in tennis history, with one of the best, if not the best, serve in the game. Not to mention his unique quirks, that make him so thrilling to watch, and so unpredictable to face.
Obviously, there are certain traits present that are otherwise undesirable in everyday life. But what gives armchair critics the right to demand every single public persona also be a perfect citizen? He doesn’t have to be your hero. Fine. But he certainly isn’t the villain.
That label belongs to the likes of Fairfax journalists whose crowning achievement – aside from penning such literary milestones as ‘I was feeling old but Murdoch’s divorce cheered me‘ – is exposing herself as a closeted racist after telling Kyrgios to leave the island. There are a thousand ways to criticise someone without resorting to manufactured tribalism. You don’t speak for Aussies. On the contrary. Plenty of us can’t get enough of him. You, on the other hand, can take a hike.
Let’s get something straight. Nick Kyrgios doesn’t owe us anything aside from maybe a cracking match of tennis. Beyond that, he enjoys the position he finds himself in today thanks to his own hard work and talent. The “ungrateful” narrative often spouted by out-of-touch boomers and Facebook mothers essentially comes down to this idiotic concept of the model minority. A man of colour refuses to be a mute and suddenly he should be stateless? “Australian” when they’re quiet, non-confrontational, with notable achievements but Greek-Malay outside those parameters, right? Fuck your model minority bullshit and Kate Halfpenny.
There will always be a small subsection of sports fans who reject athletes who show a bit too much of themselves on the field. A ponytailed and often grumpy Lleyton Hewitt took a while to become the determined little streetfighter we know him as now. The late great Shane Warne had obvious pitfalls as a national icon. Like Warne, Kyrgios is sure to mature and likely mellow a touch as he gets older.
Humans have emotions. Humans are allowed to have emotions. And Kyrgios wasn’t hatched to teach us about being good people – in fact, we love him most at his unapologetic best. He’s paid to play tennis, plain and simple. Those of you seeking a moral compass should look elsewhere.
Australians pride themselves on supporting the Aussie battler, and Nick Kyrgios is battling critics every time he picks up a racquet. Instead of chastising the bloke at every opportunity, let’s show him the support his skill so rightly deserves, that which afforded him the right to be hot-headed on the world stage.
Get behind Kyrgios in his quarter-final match at bossbet.com.au