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Is Nick Kyrgios Finally Good Enough to be Interesting?

5 1 8

When the Australian Nick Kyrgios burst onto the tennis scene as a teenager in the mid-2010s, he seemed, in at least one way, to have arrived from a different era. At the time, a triad of historically dominant mega-champions, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer, dominated men’s tennis. (Things haven’t changed all that much since, though Federer is mostly out of the picture now.) Djokovic was already disdained by every non-Serbian crowd by that point, but comity mostly prevailed among the three rivals; any tension between them was confined to elliptical comments at press conferences. That ethic of staid professionalism, the norm for a few decades now, has meant that while the golden age of men’s tennis has been thrilling on the court, it has been quite dull off of it.

Kyrgios is more like a boorish headcase from the old school of the 1970s and ‘80s — the tennis-boom era of notorious troublemakers like Ilie “Nasty” Năstase, Jimmy Connors, and, of course, John McEnroe (who, as a commentator, frequently makes light of his terrible behavior back in the day). Kyrgios blatantly tanks matches. He loses focus, jabs with umpires constantly, and finds a way to blame his self-inflicted losses on court conditions, umpires — anyone but himself. He makes spiteful comments toward fellow players, including Nadal and Djokovic, and once disclosed that “I don’t really like tennis.”

But Kyrgios also possesses undeniably incandescent talent. And for a while, when it looked like his brashness might have been more youthful indiscretion than fixed personality trait, he proved an irresistible object of fascination for both fans and magazine writers hunting for The Next Big Thing in tennis. He earned profiles in the New York Times Magazine in 2016 and the New........

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