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Toxic

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde (The Freeman) - February 18, 2021 - 12:00am

Tennis, like money, reveals who you are. Nowhere is this more evident than in the first slam of the year down under. I normally root for the underdog to share opportunity at grand slam glory. But not when it is Nick Kyrgios. He is just a dog. But rabid, to set him apart from the most loyal beings on earth including Crusoe, my 5-month old loveable lab.

 Kyrgios is a slam material and a good player. But he is not a sportsman. On court and during post-match interviews, there is nothing to like about the man. Obnoxious, the way he walks and the way he talks. While both may have nothing to do with the game, the way he plays is also to blame. But he was condoned and egged on by a rowdy and partisan crowd desperate to have a homegrown bet take the singles crown after 44 years. 

At times he serves underhanded, allowed but frowned because it shows disrespect not only to the guy at the other side of the net but to the game itself. It even sounds like underhanded tactic. Martina Hingis did it to Steffi Graf during their French Open final in 1999. Hingis won the point but not the match. She also lost the respect of the French crowd who booed the Swiss for not behaving like a miss. She was young then, but many younger than her behaves well just as many older than her don’t. It is not about the age, it is about character. 

Understandably, the game and the fans sometimes test athletes’ patience, but how they react is something else. But Rafael Nadal merely flashed a wide grin when a wrinkled woman in the stands gave him the middle finger. Why, only she knows. But her dirty antic only brought out the finest in the king of clay. Nadal displays chivalry, Kyrgios borders on savagery. Brash, rude and disrespectful. He plays great tennis but his aggressive stance misfits the tennis court. It more pertains to boxing, wrestling or kickboxing. But wait, these contact sports have unwritten rules of propriety too. Maybe in an ugly street brawl among bullies where there isn’t any, except arrogance.

In their third round match, Kyrgios misbehaved every inch the villain to the princely Dominic Thiem, hyped up the crowd and argued with the umpire. At times the Australian appeared to taunt when the Austrian loses a point. But Thiem stayed focused, bucked a two-sets to nothing deficit. Good riddance. But the come-from-behind victory sapped him physically, mentally and emotionally. Must be why Dominic ulthiemately lost in straight sets to Grigor Dimitrov in the next round. Exasperating, but Kyrgios is not alone. Boxing had Mike Tyson, athletics had Ben Johnson, basketball had Dennis Rodman and elsewhere in sports where petulance is well represented.

But this is just how we perceive these players from a distance or inside the idiot box. Image does not make a person. Some celebrity athletes have split personalities. There must be something good about them, especially for people close to them. Look, Nick has a decent and pretty girlfriend who must have seen something in him that we don’t. But if with her Nick is still how he is in court, she can’t be Kyrgios.

TENNIS
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