Canberra may be home, but it’s also a pretty quiet place for a bundle of barely contained nervous energy to spend a global pandemic lockdown. Can someone please light a candle for Nick Kyrgios?
The Australian tennis star, who thinks he is best coached by himself, has hunkered down to train and wait out the coronavirus in a year when his stocks have soared in the eyes of the Australian public.
In fact, even Kyrgios’ detractors have been forced to admit that the once-was bad boy seems to be finding himself on the right side of the ledger when it comes to community spirit and pricking egos – mostly through his take-no-prisoners approach to social media.
Really, who among us has not wanted to call Boris Becker a doughnut?
What the Kyrgios outbursts on Twitter in recent weeks have shown, however, is the fine line between offering sensible advice and picking a fight – even when the 25-year-old is saying things with which many Australians agree.
In his latest social media joust, Kyrgios responded with a withering assessment of German legend Becker, before backing off and deleting the tweets.
That act of propriety alone shows a newfound maturity and the upward trajectory of Kyrgios’ public standing in the past 11 months.
After last August’s disastrous showing at the Cincinnati Masters, where the Australian disgraced himself with childish displays of ill-temper, he surprised everyone when he returned to Melbourne in January and showed heart, wit and, dare one suggest, grace.
At the Australian Open Kyrgios put in a courageous display, making it to the quarter finals and only bowing out in a 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8/6) 7-6 (7/4) classic to long-time foil Raphael Nadal.
That three-hour and 38 minute epic at Rod Laver Arena included a brave fightback in the fourth set and backed up Kyrgios’ stated aim of taking the tournament one day at time and only to give out positive vibes.
It was a goal he more than achieved, while also taking a leading role in bushfire-relief fundraising and being generous with his time and words at key moments of the Grand Slam event.
“The trouble for me is being able to actually just produce the same attitude over and over again,’’ he said at the time. “I mean, hopefully I can keep doing it.”
He backed up the improved on-court effort with further high-profile support for small businesses and tourism operators in the Canberra region who were suffering the wake of the fires.
The big test was to come as world tennis ramped back up – but it was not to be as tournaments were cancelled during the global pandemic.
Kyrgios doesn’t appear to have wasted his lockdown, moving on almost immediately from his breakup with Russian player Anna Kalinskaya, and posting an Instagram picture of himself with new friend Chiara Passari.
Along the way he also managed to entertain fans on a podcast with the injured Andy Murray, offering to team up with the supportive, but hip-hobbled Brit as a doubles pairing.
But it’s been his advocacy of safe social distancing protocols through the pandemic that has really endeared Kyrgios to the Australian public, with a strong community response helping to reduce COVID-19 cases through support of lockdowns.
Kyrgios first took to Twitter to lambast US Open organisers for their lack of consultation over the rescheduling of the tournament, then went full throttle when World No.1 Novak Djokovic organised a charity tournament in Croatia last month.
That disaster saw Djokovic test positive for COVID-19, along with Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki, with the star eventually apologising for the misstep.
Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ – this takes the cake”.
His follow up comment about the failure of Alexander Zverev to self-isolate after playing in the event then drew former player Boris Becker into the stoush.
Critical of Zverev’s attendance at a nightclub, Becker labelled Kyrgios “a rat” for commenting, prompting the Australia to label the German a “doughnut”
He has since deleted the tweets.
Through it all Kyrgios has been on point with the mood in Australia, participating in charity events in Canberra and clearly pushing himself at training as he prepares for the newly positive, competitive player to re-emerge.
With the WTA and ATP to resume next month ahead of the US Open on August 25, and with no crowd in attendance, Kyrgios will be looking to channel his downtime energy into a shot at his first Grand Slam title.
Having shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, Australians will be hoping that post-pandemic Kyrgios continues to show the same passion and drive on court has he has displayed during the crisis and his social media takedowns.
If he can pull it off, the doughnuts will be on the critics.