This week Nick Kyrgios made some astounding comments about his love for tennis, as well as his passion and hunger for the sport when he takes to the court.
It is safe to say the 26-year-old has had a roller coaster career, with blistering performances over each of the world’s best players on top of copious fines and a suspension to boot.
On numerous occasions he has looked disinterested and angry at the world, but at least from the outside it seemed like the two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist was embracing his role in the sport and wanting to entertain the crowds that came to see him.
However the hunger that pundits assumed was back looks to have taken a serious hit following Kyrgios’ startling comments after his opening round loss to Mackenzie McDonald in Washington, where he was defending champion.
“I’m not feeling the severity of certain points, and I don’t feel the pressure as much as obviously playing week in, week out,”he said.
“You feel when you kind of have to press, when you kind of have to relax, when you kind of coast, when you kind of push.
“I don’t really feel like my body and my mind quite understand the severity of some points here or there because I haven’t played that much.
He went even further, touching on the fact that his enigmatic and sometimes overly aggressive nature on court could be the ignition for his passion for the sport.
“I feel like I actually enjoyed my tennis more when it was so up and down, you see me today, like I’m losing and I’m barely getting angry.” Kyrgios said.
“I actually miss the days when I was losing and carrying on and I was getting fined and I was throwing my racquets, I was carrying on.
“That just meant that I just cared a lot, I actually cared what was happening.
“Now I lose and I’m actually happy for the other guy, back then, I couldn’t stand the other guy.
“I always had this theory when people got angry when they’re losing, really angry, that it was a sign that they cared. Do you know what I mean? Like it’s positive.
“Now, I don’t know. It’s weird, man. It’s really weird.”
So, what does this all mean?
Kyrgios has often said he doesn’t enjoy tennis and that it was never his first choice, always admitting he loves basketball more.
Additionally, he has admitted that he just hasn’t been interested when playing at times, most notably during Australia’s 2015 Davis Cup tie against Kazakhstan in Darwin, while also mentioning on court that he stayed up until all hours of the morning playing FIFA.
But that just looked like a young player lacking maturity, with others labelling it a scapegoat to tale the pressure of performance away from him.
The quotes from the American capital paint a bleak picture for the future of the 26-year-old within tennis.
In 2020, Kyrgios did not participate after Acapulco in February, staying in Australia due to the insidious pandemic that has ravaged the world, while constantly acting like the voice of reason on social media, condemning the acts of the sport’s stars for going above Covid protocols.
He returned with a vengeance in 2021, pushing reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem to five sets in the third round of the Australian Open before injuries struck once again, retiring hurt against Felix Augier-Aliassime in the third round at Wimbledon.
At his best, Kyrgios is virtually unbeatable, his undefeated record against Novak Djokovic speaks for that fact, but the difference between his best and worst is as wide as the entire country of Australia.
It is a worry that he headed to the USA instead of Tokyo due to the lack of crowds, and the fact that he has almost resigned himself to become just an entertainer for fans makes one wonder about the crossroad that the enigmatic star finds himself at.
What exactly does he want with his career now?
Does he want to hang up the racket and focus on the sensational philanthropic work that he has commenced with his NK Foundation?
Or should he venture into the media? His expert commentary is insightful and he boasts a certain confidence in the role.
Should he just continue playing, earn significant cash and be forever a ‘what could have been’ player?
It’s a tough one, because whether you like him, hate him or are indifferent, everybody can agree that Nick Kyrgios is good for tennis.
How many people have you spoken to about the sport and you hear that they don’t really watch much tennis but they will sit and witness an entire five-set Kyrgios match from start to finish?
If these comments are hints that there may be an early retirement on the cards, it would be a sorry day for the sport that we love.
He’s not the easiest watch at times for the tennis purists out there, nor the non-purists, but he is box office, and he must be kept in the sport for the great of the game.
It would be phenomenal for Kyrgios to remain on the tour, and injury free, because while he might not win a Slam or summit at World No.1, he is one of the most prodigious talents that tennis has ever seen.
Tennis has become better at embracing him, but if we can just do it that little bit more, we may just get another eight years of Nick Kyrgios, and just think of those highlights.
Listen to The First Serve, back Monday 9th August after the Olympics at 7pm AEST 1116AM SEN Melbourne & 1629AM SEN SA / 8pm AEST 1170AM Sydney or listen live and catch up on the SEN App.
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