Nick Kyrgios: The new hotheaded hell-raiser of world tennis
Of late, players with tempestuous streaks have turned into endangered species in world tennis.
The sport that once was full of capricious characters like Ilie Nastase, Vitas Gerulaitis, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Yannick Noah and Goran Ivanisevic, has now given way to proper professionals that do and say all the right things on and off camera.
But in 2015, tennis seems to have found a rare player cut from the same cloth as those larger-than-life entertainers from a previous generation.
Despite the embryonic nature of his professional career, Nick Kyrgios continues to consistently polarize the tennis world.
His antics on and off the court have rightfully earned him the tag of tennis' bad boy. The constantly erring Aussie repeatedly finds himself at the centre of heated exchanges with officials, authorities and fans.
Playing in the fishbowl of world tennis can certainly be off-putting for somebody as young and raw as Kyrgios. However, there now is a need for his team to help him rein in the fringe elements of his tennis playing personality.
On many previous occasions, fellow professionals have sprung to the 20-year-old's defence, putting his misdemeanor down to a combination of his young age and the disproportionate spotlight he seems to be under.
However, after his latest sledge of Stan Wawrinka, quite possibly the nicest man in tennis at the moment, Kyrgios has failed to find protection from not just his peers but also his most ardent fans.
Having announced himself to the world at Wimbledon 2014 with a win over the redoubtable Rafael Nadal, Kyrgios has gone on to infuse much-needed effervescence to ATP tour. His irreverence has made mundane media interactions that much more interesting and engaging for viewers.
Tennis legend Boris Becker believes political correctness is bad for the sport.
“People occasionally put it to me that tennis is more boring now than when I played, and when I ask them why they say there are fewer characters.
“I reply that we have great characters, but it’s true they don’t show it as much because they can’t. They get fined and there are microphones on the court that pick up every curse or utterance in frustration,” he wrote is his autobiography ‘Wimbledon: My Life and Career at the All England Club’.
With Kyrgios, one cannot anticipate what’s coming next. Therein lies his appeal. But thanks to his appetite for pushing the envelope, he now runs the risk of alienating some of his admirers.
It didn't take long for Kyrgios to run into trouble at Wimbledon 2015. The Aussie, during his first round match against Diego Schwartzman, entered into an argument with umpire Mohammed Layhani.
"I will sit out here and wait. I'm not going to play. I'm going to get him [the tournament official] to come out, that's the rules. Are you serious right now or not?" said Kyrgios.
He was heard saying 'dirty scum' as he looked towards his box. However, Kyrgios clarified later stating his words were directed at himself and not the umpire.
Tanking against Richard Gasquet
The 20-year-old underwent an infamous meltdown in the 4th round at Wimbledon 2015 against Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Serving in the 2nd set, down 0-1, umpire James Keothavong handed Kyrgios a code violation for cursing. The Aussie lost the game after a double fault on game point.
He mocked the umpire with a 'thumbs up' gesture and went on to tank the next game as he simmered with rage. Kyrgios made no serious attempt to return any of Gasquet's serves.
The crowd, having paid premium price to watch high-quality tennis, erupted into boos as a mark of protest against Nick's antics.
Davis Cup debacle
The brash Kyrgios positioned himself at the centre of another controversy during his shock loss to 115th-ranked Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan in a Davis Cup tie.
Wavered in the heat, the Aussie let out a cry of “I don’t want to be here” after losing a point at the Marrara Sport Complex in Darwin.
He then went on to hit the ball out of the court. When the match finally concluded, Kyrgios smashed both his rackets.
The seventh best player in the world went down 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (7-2) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 to his unheralded opponent.
"I didn't think I was having that much fun out there to be honest. I was struggling to find myself in the match. I couldn't get my feet set on any ball. My serve was probably the only thing I'd give a little bit of credit [for]. I don't think I really found that balance of enjoying myself and playing some good tennis," said Nick explaining his “I don’t want to be here” remark.
The temperamental tennis star has often engaged in 'banter' with spectators in the stands. At the Australian Open 2015, Kyrgios shouted “Get off your fu**ing phone!” to a fan. He then said “Oi! Where are you going?” to a group of fans that headed for the exit door before his fourth round match against Andreas Seppi had concluded.
Later in the year at Wimbledon, the Aussie slammed his racket so hard into the court that it rebounded off the surface to bounce off into the crowd at the All England Club.
In the very same match against Milos Raonic, he confronted another fan.
"It's easy when you're just sitting there and you're just watching, when you've got no experience at all on the court," he said during his post match press conference.
There is little doubt why Kyrgios is widely regarded as the poster boy of the new tennis generation. Minus the grand slam titles, he is to this generation what Marat Safin was to his – grumpy and mercurial in equal measure. However, the failure to make necessary course corrections could deny Kyrgios a chance to fulfill his great potential and fans an opportunity to witness the unfolding of a stellar tennis career.