Nick Kyrgios, the tennis player who has received more criticism and psychological analysis than anyone else on the ATP Tour today. He has become known as a divisive tennis star and his career has been shaped by his battles with the media, rather than his ranking in the Top 10. He has been labeled as the villain, the bad boy, the ingrate, and the brat. It may seem surprising to imagine him setting aside his decade-long conflicts to take on the role of a tennis analyst, but here he is on the Tennis Channel set, relaxed and engaging in friendly banter with Brett Haber and Jim Courier. He is dressed in a dark jacket and a lilac T-shirt, delivering match comments with confident expertise. He effortlessly joins in on panel discussions, knowing when to step in and when to listen, much like a skilled baseliner on the court. His hair looks well-groomed. As it turns out, Kyrgios is just as opinionated and entertaining on set as he is on the court. Why not have Nick Kyrgios as a pundit?
When it comes to tennis, Novak Djokovic and the Australian star are the two players that every fan must have an opinion on. Personally, I am a big fan of the Australian player. Although he can be arrogant on the court (like many others at the top of the sport), and his comments about other players can be harsh, I find him incredibly captivating to watch. He is not afraid to speak his mind, unlike many of his peers. Additionally, he coaches himself, which gives him a keen understanding of the game. Most impressively, he has a natural talent for maneuvering a small, brightly colored ball on the court.
Injuries to his knee and wrist have limited his playing time this year, but we can’t forget Kyrgios’s standout performance in 2022. Despite thinking his career was over, he suddenly found his best form, impressively taking the first set off Djokovic in the Wimbledon final and dominating Medvedev at Flushing Meadows. From a player known for flashy shots and unpredictable moves, Kyrgios has now developed into a well-rounded player. His strength not only lies in his powerful serve, but also in his ability to execute a variety of shots from any position on the court – including the split step, drop volley, slap forehand, and backhand bunt. He is the only player on the tour who can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary, such as using a simple dink shot as an offensive weapon. His success in the latter part of his career can be attributed to both his technical skills and strong character – a force that cannot be separated from his fiery personality and constant flirtation with controversy. He is often compared to Caravaggio, a master of darkness in the art world, as he unleashes blinding shots across the court while his personality continues to cause a stir. Kyrgios’s intelligence and confidence are not just intangible qualities of his experience, but are also evident in his physical presence – from his hunched walk to his commanding presence on the court.
Despite his theoretical suitability for the job, I had reservations about Kyrgios taking on the role of a match commentator. The Tennis Channel, with its pretentious and exclusive atmosphere, seemed like an odd match for Kyrgios and his nonchalant attitude and passionate personality. However, I was proven wrong as he excelled in the role.
Kyrgios was recently added to the commentary team for the ATP Finals in Turin and has been both sharp and amusing. He has made it clear that he prefers players who are willing to take risks and play aggressively. In Wednesday’s match between Medvedev and Zverev, it was Zverev who fit this description, while in Thursday’s match between Sinner and Rune, it was Sinner who played with the desired style. Kyrgios believes that fast courts reward aggressive play and he wants to see exciting and dynamic tennis on display. In the end, Zverev lost and Sinner won, making for a perfectly balanced start to Kyrgios’s commentary career.
The man, known as “the human highlights reel” by the Tennis Channel, has also contributed to filling the dead air with phrases like “Here we go, two break points for Zverev” and “He needs some first serves here”. He has incorporated player jargon into his commentary, using terms like “short replies” for short returns and encouraging Rune to “finish the set off with good habits” after the Dane was toweled off in the opening stanza against Sinner. He made a comedic mistake, asking viewers to “look at people that have had sex against Medvedev” before quickly correcting himself to “success”. He has also shown his skill in finding unique ways to express “that was a good shot”, which is a common aspect of commentary. After Sinner’s impressive lunging cross-court backhand, he exclaimed, “Incredible. Ridiculous. How. Question marks.”
The most enlightening aspect has been Kyrgios’ insight into his own approach when facing top players in the sport. We have discovered that Medvedev’s serve can sometimes be vulnerable due to his tendency to throw the ball out to the right too much. Kyrgios also strategically uses different ball tosses to keep his opponents guessing and is known for not warming up before matches. Surprisingly, he also acted as a coach for Rune for six months after the young player reached out for advice through DMs. When asked if he prefers to be liked or authentic, Kyrgios promptly responded with “authentic.” He even enjoys being the “villain” at times, relishing in the energy of an entire stadium rooting against him. These moments bring out a different side of him, and he considers them some of the best moments in his career.
This year, Kyrgios has been known for his honesty, despite facing challenges. He has spent a lot of time in rehab due to injuries, but still made headlines. He admitted to pushing his ex-girlfriend, but the assault charge was dismissed in February. Kyrgios later apologized publicly for his actions. In May, he helped police in Canberra catch a man who stole his mother’s Tesla at gunpoint. During the summer, he revealed that after losing to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2019, he considered suicide. He has also been open about his struggles with alcohol and self-harm, even sharing that he ended up in a psych ward in London to address these issues. This level of emotion and openness is rare among modern athletes, who are often heavily controlled and managed by the media.
Nick Kyrgios has a contentious relationship with the media and tennis community in Australia. This may be due to his rebellious attitude towards authority, but also because he doesn’t fit the traditional image of a “good boy” that Australian tennis has promoted. He does not conform to the image of past Australian tennis stars like Lew Hoad, Pat Rafter, Ken Rosewall, or Lleyton Hewitt. Instead, he is a Greek-Malaysian from Canberra who is a die-hard fan of the Boston Celtics, has been known to imitate sexual acts on the court, and has a close relationship with his mother. As a child, my Greek-Cypriot grandmother used to refer to anyone being silly and trying to be funny as “Karagiozis”, and I see hints of that playful character in Kyrgios with his love for provocation and humor. Perhaps the only country that can truly embrace his unique and complex personality is America. Based on his recent appearance on set, where he casually discussed his beloved Celtics, it seems that he has found a comfortable place there.
Kyrgios revealed during a recent interview that he intends to retire in the next one or two years. He mentioned this plan while commenting on the Sinner-Rune match, adding that he may still seek advice from Djokovic on how to maintain his career for a longer period of time. This is not new information, as Kyrgios had previously mentioned his retirement plan in a Q&A session on Instagram last year, stating that once he turns 30, he envisions spending his days relaxing at his home in the Bahamas.
During the time when the top three players dominated the sport, it was expected for athletes to continue playing well into their middle age. However, Roger Federer changed this perception by continuing to excel even after turning 30. It was previously considered normal for a professional tennis player to retire around the age of 30, as seen with players like Björn Borg, Marat Safin, and Pete Sampras. If Nick Kyrgios were to retire after turning 30, it would be a return to the traditional pattern. However, for those who are fans of tennis, it would be disappointing. Kyrgios’ skills as a commentator are impressive and make one want to watch him play again. However, he will never match his abilities as a player, with his unpredictable yet masterful performances on the court. Once Kyrgios is no longer playing, tennis may become more polite, elegant, and graceful, but it will also be less intriguing.