The crucifixion of Nick Kyrgios
The torrent of vitriol nearly drowning young tennis prodigy, Nick Kyrgios, is appalling and un-Australian. It says far more about the inadequacies of the critics than it does about the player.
To watch the first three games of Kyrgios’ match against Andreas Seppi in the 2017 Australian Open was to witness magic. His Italian opponent was unable to win a single point until the fourth game – despite having amassed more than $8 million in career prizemoney.
What happened after that and Kyrgios’ eventual loss has ignited a global firestorm of condemnation for a young man who clearly has exceptional tennis ability. The crime of which he stands accused and for which he has already been found guilty is that he does not have a win-at-any-cost killer mindset.
It is pertinent that Kyrgois was not playing a team sport nor playing for his country. He did not let down team-mates or his nation. His was an individual performance with only his own reputation at stake.
The contrast when he played a Fast4 exhibition match against Rafael Nadal – and won – a few days earlier offers an intriguing insight into his possible mindset. He was clearly happy and carefree and he played superbly. On centre court, he crumbled.
Kyrgios’ occasional willingness to surrender may disappoint us. It may suggest he is possibly wasting a superlative talent. It might even make him a loser. But so what, it is his life.
Who among us has not cut a corner, failed to go that extra metre, eaten an extra chocolate or had a glass too many of whatever is our preferred tipple? We all do it all the time. It is a reflection of being human, not perfect.
Frailties, flaws and foibles may characterise Kyrgios but that only makes him just like the rest of us.
How would most of us cope with constant exposure to the harsh and unrelenting scrutiny of the media? Would we have the mental toughness to withstand the never-ending critiquing of our every move?
Would we buckle under the pressure of trying to be the best in the world at something just because a whole lot of people who lack any similar talent want to feel good because they share a nationality?
At just 21 years, Kyrgios has won more than $3 million in prizemoney not counting another small fortune in endorsements and sponsorships. Barely out of school he has become a global celebrity with all of the mind-bending temptations, traps and traumas that come with that.
How can any of us who do not have great wealth understand how such fame and fortune might affect a young man?
Who could blame Kyrgios for sometimes preferring backyard basketball instead of the gladiatorial grimness of tournaments to determine global supremacy?
One thing is for sure: if the carping critics continue with their chorus of criticism Kyrgios may well be lost to tennis for good. They don’t deserve to get away with it. Decent people need to be heard. A young man trying to find his way should be offered support.