Monday, 12 October 2015

Is There a Place for Nick Kyrigos in Tennis?

by Oliver Clark

In the final Grand Slam of the year, Nick Kyrigos decided to go out in dramatic fashion as ever. Facing arguably one of the toughest first round draws possible against the in form Andy Murray, the Australian was his exuberant self, performing the style of tennis that has made him a force to be reckoned with, whoever the opponent. However, the match was not without some moments of controversy, as is the story with any Kyrigos match. Alongside the commonplace outrageous between-the-leg shots, shouting, swearing and racquet throwing, the Aussie thought it would be a good idea to take a nap between changeovers!

This brought an end to a very high profile season for the 20 year old. Alongside numerous successes such as reaching the Australian Open quarter-final and breaking into the worlds top 30, there have been a couple of incidents that have brought Kyrigos great scrutiny from the tennis world and general public. The first of these came at Wimbledon, where he faced Richard Gasquet, a man who the at the previous year's tournament, Nick defended 9 match against before prevailing in a 5 set classic. This year, there would be no such classic, as Kyrigos seemed completely uninterested at points in his eventual 4 set defeat. One game in particular came under widespread criticism, where he refused to attempt to return 2 of Gasquet's serves, with the action being described as 'tanking'. In my opinion, although this was a poor show of gamesmanship from Kyrigos, and clearly displeased the Wimbledon crowd, this was by far less controversial than what was to follow at the Davis Cup a matter of weeks later.

 In a match against Stan Wawrinka, Kyrigos was caught on a courtside microphone muttering 'Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend, sorry to tell you that mate', in reference to fellow players Thannasi Kokkinakis and Donna Vekic, the girlfriend of Wawrinka. This ultimate low blow of bringing up an opponents personal life during their job was met by outrage worldwide. Wawrinka, having not heard the remark during the match, was said to have confronted Kyrigos in the locker rooms, Kyrigos having to retire late in the match due to injury despite leading. Wawrinka went on to call the comments 'unacceptable' and pleaded for the ATP, tennis' governing body, to take action. "

Hes young but thats no excuse ... every match, he behaves very badly,Wawrinka told reporters after the match, before tweeting, to [stoop] so low is not only unacceptable but also beyond belief." Although Kyrigos would later apologise to all those involved on Twitter, he was slapped with a series of fines totalling nearly $40,000 and a 28 day suspended sentence that would expire in 6 months. However, although there was fair criticism of the player over his quite simply dirty actions, there were others who were quick to jump to his defence.

The first of these was Nill Kyrigos, the mother of Nick, who claimed that the comments were a retaliation to Wawrinka claiming Kyrigos had faked an injury in a prior match between the two. Mrs Kyrigos eventually shut down her Twitter account, mainly due to the tirade of criticism aimed at herself and her son. Unfortunately, there were also a number of well respected pundits and commentators who seemed to deem the actions of Kyrigos as simply immature, and that people should "remember that he is still a teenager." Other defenders stated that because Kyrigos was walking away from Wawrinka, it made the incident less severe as it was 'not confrontational'. There is an obvious reason that pundits want to clear the mist of controversy around Kyrigos. He is arguably, alongside the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer, one of the star names of tennis, not just because of his antics on the court, but because of his aggressive and exciting style of play. Tennis went through a period of lacking true characters that it had once seen, with John McEnroe's verbal remonstrations of match officials a thing of the past! Kyrigos brings the fire and the flair that tennis desperately needs to attract a new audience of people, because outside of the big 4, there appear to be less and less true characters in the game than ever.

However, is this a reason to forgive a player who has made public the sex life of two tour players at the expense of another? When I hear the defenders calling Kyrigos 'young' and that he is 'still learning how to behave', my only reaction is, 'YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!'. There is a certain etiquette in tennis that players adhere to that is not present in sports such as football. Despite players occasionally disputing the calls of linesmen, there are very few incidents of controversy outside of the actions of Kyrigos. The ugly comments he made to Wawrinka were not a sign of immaturity, they were a malicious attack. You learn from a young age what is right and what is wrong, just because Kyrigos is an exceptional and exciting tennis player, does not mean that this epiphany can be delayed by 5 years. It is evident that the comments have had an effect on Wawrinka, who was visibly distressed at the Cincinnati Masters, claimed in a post match interview that Kyrigos had failed to apologise for his actions. What was Kyrigos' response? "Whether he accepted it or not, it's not my problem."

Nick Kyrigos is undoubtably the future of tennis, he is one of 14 players to reach two Grand Slam quarter finals as a teenager, and one of 7 to defeat the reigning world number one as a teenager. He also attracts a new audience to tennis, one that enjoys the fire and flair of his excessively confident nature. But do his actions bring a dark cloud over the integrity of the game? If he continues on the path that he chose towards the end of the 2015 season, then I think the only answer is yes. The next season is going to be crucial for the Australian, as he will either prove that he was a hot headed, flash in the pan talent, or a matured, genuine future Grand Slam winner.

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