It makes no doubt whatsoever that Nick Kyrgios is one of the most talented up-and-comers. Yet it makes just as little doubt that like with every medal, this talent has two sides, which he has both shown since the start of his professional career, and which could both be seen during his first round U.S. Open match against Andy Murray (an encounter which the world number three won 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1).
As much as he could come up with absolutely spectacular shots (“I’m playing those shots whether it’s [night session or] day session first on.”)…
… he can also come with the attitude of a spoilt child striving for attention…
… or do something completely hilarious like taking a cat nap during a set changeover (“Just taking a nap, I guess. It’s good for you.”).
After all, Kyrgios is, literally, a character. Even more than a character: he is a clown, and not a very funny one at times.
Indeed, tennis needs such characters, but there is a very thin line between entertaining and doing too much, a line which the Aussie has already crossed many times, and even went way too far beyond it less than a month ago.
The problem is that Kyrgios does not always understand that what his (re)actions don’t help him in the least: “The funny thing is, myself, Thanasi [Kokkinakis] – well, I don’t think Thanasi is in that category – myself and Bernard [Tomic], it’s so funny”, he said to the press after his match. “Bernard, he’s harmless. He’s just a normal kid. I don’t really understand where he gets this reputation from, or where I get it from at all. We show emotion out there. We might not be the most usual tennis players you see. Somehow we got this reputation that’s just ridiculous.”
Being entertaining is a good thing for the game (tell it to Gaël Monfils, the best entertainer of tennis). Sticking out of the pre-established standards is also great for tennis. However, as John McEnroe (well-known for his outbursts as a player, but firmly aware of the limits) rightly put out during the commentary of last night’s match: “You don’t want to be remembered as a clown. You want to be remembered as a player.”
At only 20 years of age, there is still time for Nick Kyrgios to change this “clown” label to one of “spectacular and entertaining player”, something which would do him, and tennis, a world of good.