Sport Tennis Why tennis is running scared of Nick Kyrgios

Why tennis is running scared of Nick Kyrgios

nick kyrgios tanking
Kyrgios struggles to contain his temper. Photo: Getty
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Well done, Nick Kyrgios.

You’ve put Australian tennis on the global map again.

The 21-year-old’s latest temper tantrum is world news and comes in the same week he won the Japan Open – a result that had some wondering if he had turned the corner.

If we’ve learnt anything about Nick, it’s that he can’t stop shooting himself in the foot.

He quickly apologised on social media but for an umpire to urge a sportsperson to “act professional and play with your best effort the whole time” is unheard of.

Kyrgios avoided a suspension but has received what’s thought to be the biggest fine of the tennis year Thursday.

The ATP announced that Kyrgios would be be fined a total of $US16,500 for breaches of the ATP code of conduct during his second round match against Mischa Zverev on Wednesday.

Kyrgios received the on-site maximum fine of $US10,000 for Lack of Best Efforts, as well as a $US 5,000 fine for Verbal Abuse of a Spectator, and a $US1,500 fine for Unsportsmanlike Conduct.

Australian bookmaker Sportsbet refunded money wagered on the match because they thought punters had been dudded.

They were – and so were the fans who paid money to watch Kyrgios.

A player saying to a paying fan “I don’t owe you anything” is just plain piggish.

Of course, under the Association of Tennis Professionals [ATP] code of conduct, players are required to “use [their] best efforts during the match when competing in a tournament”.

If the ATP have any balls, the Australian should receive the heftiest fine and a lengthy suspension.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

Be it tanking accusations, outbursts at officials, disputes with other players or fans, Kyrgios is still yet to be suspended from the ATP Tour.

A slap on the wrist – in the form of a suspended 28-day ban – for his offensive comments to Stanislas Wawrinka and a $25,000 fine is as harsh as the ATP have got.

The reason why is because tennis actually needs Kyrgios more than he needs it.

It’s not the flotilla of ageing stars that will bring future fans through the gates or to screens. It’s Kyrgios.

The Novak Djokovics and Roger Federers are too Barry Manilow and Andy Murray’s too tortured.

The robotic Milos Raonic won’t cut it in hipster street and time isn’t on the side of Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Gael Monfils.

Kyrgios has the shots and the NBA attitude to attract a new market to tennis.

nick kyrgios tanking
Kyrgios has won three titles in 2016. Photo: Getty

While Australians lambast the kid, New Yorkers – he was recently the subject of a New York Times feature – recognise he is just what tennis needs.

And they should. They’ve given us the prophet of post-truth politics, Donald Trump.

He’s got a touch of the presidential candidate about him, Kyrgios, in that he doesn’t give a stuff.

He challenges authority and doesn’t care what the fans or media think.

He’ll tell a player on court who his girlfriend has slept with.

Stuff the Olympic Games, John McEnroe and the fans – Kyrgios will do it his way.

He gives the impression that he neither loves the game nor its values.

He’d prefer the ‘street cred’ and grittiness of the NBA to the strawberry-and-cream set at Wimbledon.

This is what makes Kyrgios so marketable. He doesn’t conform to the white bread tennis stereotype.

nick kyrgios tanking
The Aussie won the Japan Open last week. Photo: Getty

But like Trump he craves to be top dog, albeit on his terms.

Both inhabit worlds that they purportedly don’t believe in yet covet, and that is their attraction.

They shun traditional rules and values, and get away with it.

Trump won’t make it to the White House and Kyrgios won’t get to No.1. He’s too soft.

But he will be forgiven for tanking.

Neither the ATP nor Tennis Australia want to sideline this summer’s major drawcard.

He’ll screw up again but Australians will forgive him.

They too inhabit a post-value world, though they crave a winner.

If Kyrgios is allowed to get away with his Shanghai ‘effort’, winning will be the only sporting value this country has left.

Dr Tom Heenan teaches sports studies at Monash University.

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