Oscar van der Horst
editor NOS Sport
Oscar van der Horst
editor NOS Sport
Nick Kyrgios managed to win his first encounters with tennis greats Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic one by one. But he never came close to a major title. Why was he in the news so often? Weird antics, in particular. A portrait of an Australian enfant terrible.
“He has taken tennis to the lowest level I have ever seen in terms of sportsmanship, cheating, manipulation, name calling and aggressive behavior towards umpires and linesmen.” Former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash is not a Kyrgios fan. “He has passed the lower limit and something really needs to be done about it,” Cash said of his compatriot.
That ‘monster’ Kyrgios is now running free at Wimbledon. And no one can catch him. With brilliant tennis, he reached the semi-finals, his best performance ever at a Grand Slam tournament. And thanks to Rafael Nadal’s cancellation, he is now even in his first final.
Abuse of his ex
Kyrgios sat down for a while, shortly after reaching the semi-finals. Also to meditate on his sins. He has to appear in court next month for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, which could lead to a prison sentence. Yes, Kyrgios has certainly doubted himself too. “I thought my time had come.”
“No one would have thought this,” he said. “Everyone kept saying: he is not mentally strong, he is physically fragile, he has no stamina. It was a difficult route.”
Kyrgios gets the spectators in London on the benches, even though he misbehaves on and around the track as usual.
“I had already found a reason to disqualify him after his victory in the first round,” says former tennis player John van Lottum, who could also go on a rampage himself. “With guys like John McEnroe, Goran Ivanisevic and Benoît Paire, there have been a lot of flamboyant players over the years, but Kyrgios is really crazy.”
More than half a million euros in fines
Throwing stuff, insulting everything and everyone, weeks of suspensions and a total of more than half a million euros in fines. The low point may have been the sneer he threw at opponent Stanislas Wawrinka during a match, when Kyrgios the Swiss reported that his girlfriend was having sex with someone else.
“The respect is sometimes really hard to find”, Van Lottum is annoyed. “If he even knows how to write that word at all.”
In the run-up to the final, Nick Kyrgios talks about the limited support he feels from the Australian tennis heroes:
Kyrgios lacks support from Australia despite Wimbledon final: ‘They tear me down’
Kyrgios was born 27 years ago in Australia to a Greek father and a Malaysian mother. The latter is said to have descended from a royal family and bear the title of princess, to further heighten the contrast with their descendant. His Instagram name King Kyrgios may also be a nod to his heritage.
From an early age he has been the Kyrgios he still is in 2022, his good friend and fellow tennis player Thanasi Kokkinakis once said. The only difference is that young Kyrgios was on the heavy side.
Kokkinakis: “There was a very fat kid that everyone was talking about and who could hit the ball insanely well. His father was always there (and is still a regular face in Kyrgios’ entourage, ed.) and that boy wore Jordan- clothes. That kid, that’s pretty much what Nick still is.”
“He used to have a very good serve and forehand, but he couldn’t get ahead as soon as he had to move on the track. But Nick was already very competitive then. He hates losing,” Kokkinakis said.
According to Kokkinakis, Kyrgios sometimes deliberately tries to take his opponents out of their game. “Opponents can drive him crazy because he turns it into a circus. Once a player starts to feel comfortable with him, Nick comes back to life. Still, in the locker room, he isn’t considered a bad guy.”
Former world champion McEnroe was one of the many coaches Kyrgios wore out and came to know him as “a good person, the greatest talent of the last ten years”. But that collaboration was short-lived. “I would like to see him live up to his potential. He belongs to the best five or six tennis players in the world.”
Without a coach on the ATP tour
Kyrgios no longer has a coach at all. “I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone,” he says with a good dose of self-mockery.
Kyrgios has his get-togethers with the audience. “Some players don’t really interact with the people, they’re really serious. I think it’s also part of my personality to involve them. I go into my game and I like to entertain. I like it to put on a bit of a show.”
Another well-known statement from Kyrgios is that he does not like tennis very much. He also violated the dress code a few times this week at the classic Wimbledon, which resulted in his umpteenth fine.
At least he got to this point by remaining completely himself. He thinks that is more important than winning grand slam tournaments. Still, now that he’s so close…
The Russians who are not allowed to participate this year, favorite Matteo Berrettini who had to withdraw because of corona, no Roger Federer, opponent Nadal who withdraws with a stomach injury. This year is an excellent opportunity for Kyrgios, in a final against Novak Djokovic.
“Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have inspired millions of people. They are gods. At least, that’s how I see them,” he looks at the big three of this century. He himself is the number forty in the world. And with no points to be earned at Wimbledon this year, this sparse rebound won’t take him further to the top.
Bullying and fulmination
On his way to the semi-finals, he already defeated top player Stefanos Tsitsipas, who gave Kyrgios a big kick. “When his evil side comes out, he can do a lot of damage to the people around him. He is constantly bullying and fulminating. He may have been a bully at school too. I don’t like that. I don’t like people that others fail.”
Deep down, however, Kyrgios is very different, he revealed a few months ago. Three years ago he was lonely, depressed, he used a lot of stimulants and even thought about taking his own life.
But Kyrgios is back, for a show of unprecedented proportions.