Opinion: Nick Kyrgios is what tennis needs to survive

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The ‘bad boy’ of Australian tennis is recognised by present and former professionals as one of the biggest tennis talents in the past five years.

Yet, the expression ‘bad boy’ is not one of endearment commonly used by the media. Instead, it has been used to showcase his apparent arrogance and disrespectful attitude to his opponents, on and off the court.

Nick Kyrgios has copped massive slack for showing disrespect specifically to the glorified ‘Big Three’: Comprising of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Nick Kyrgios of Australia reacts to his opponent during his first round match against Lorenzo Sonego of Italy on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Arena in Melbourne, Tuesday, January 21, 2020. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Yet this observation of his attitude as being one of ‘disrespect’ is sorely misplaced. Instead, tennis audiences should admire the mentality of a player that does not glorify his opponents, but instead works to prove he is better than them.

As the reign of the ‘Big Three’ looks to come to a slow close, it is time to shine a light on why Nick Kyrgios’ on-court attitude should be looked upon and admired by tennis players of the next generation.

The ‘Big Three’ have earned their way into the history books

Before there are comments labelling me as ‘Big Three hater’ or ‘Kyrgios admirer’, it must, almost needlessly, be prefaced that the achievements and accolades accomplished by the Big Three are truly once in a lifetime showcases of talent and should be admired by tennis viewers in centuries to come.

To date the Big Three have collectively won 56 Major titles (with Federer a record 20, Nadal 19 and Djokovic 17). It would be foolish to think, as many may, that Kyrgios does not recognise this talent and respect their accomplishments.

Photo: AP/Andy Brownbill

“Always playing at my local tennis (club) and we were watching these guys at Grand Slams…saying who’s gonna win the next Grand Slam, who’s gonna beat Murray, Djokovic, Federer and Nadal,” Kyrgios says to Tennis World in July 2018.

“When I look back…to know that I’ve beaten all four it’s pretty special..it’s something that not many people can say.”

Yet, instead of bowing down and glorifying the tennis champions that dominate the competition, Nick Kyrgios looks to prove that they are not standing on a pedestal too tall to reach.

In an interview with the Daily Mail in March last year, Kyrgios notes that while they have brought an incredible amount fans to the world of tennis, they are competitors just like everyone else.

Nick Kyrgios (Getty)

“I don’t know how much respect the others show them but I’m not going to really respect someone just because they can hit a ball over the net, that’s not enough for me to give them respect,” said Kyrgios in an interview with the Daily Mail.

“Why would I give them an inch? They’ve already got the advantage with always playing on the best courts in the best conditions, all that sort of stuff, so I don’t know why you would give them inches.”

“Obviously what they (the trio) do for the sport is huge, they inspire millions around the globe. But when I’m on the court we are competing and I’m not trying to be your friend.”

2020 ATP Cup sees ‘bad boy’ become tennis role model

Those who watched the 2020 ATP Cup would have seen one of the greatest tennis ‘bromances’ come to life.

Nick Kyrgios and Australian teammate Alex De Minaur built their relationship during their tournament run in the ATP Cup, reaching the semi-finals together. However, one year prior to the competition, Kyrgios was nothing but excited for what De Minaur was set to achieve.

“It’s always great seeing other Aussies do well. I am not the jealous or envious type – if others have success I am happy for them,” Kyrgios said.

Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios celebrate winning their Quarter-finals. Photo: Reuters

“Seeing what Alex has been doing, he is now on the big stage. I know he is excited about the Aussie summer and I am sure he will do very well.”

A special handshake between the two players, along with their chemistry on the court, showed nothing but the special bond the two players have.

“I kind of look as him as my little brother in a way,” Kyrgios said after defeating Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.

“I try and be a good influence on him whenever I can, whenever I’m around him.”

After watching the attitude of Kyrgios evolve during his career, there’s reason to believe that he is the missing piece to tennis’ survival.

Regardless of his performance on the court, Nick Kyrgios continues to demonstrate what sport is about. Enjoying it while you can and not being afraid to prove that you are better than your opponent.

Mixed with an entertaining display of tennis, the attitude and dedication presented towards the game is why he continues to play. And it’s how the next generation of tennis stars should play.

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