Nick Kyrgios – more than black and white

Nick Kyrgios

Nick Kyrgios

With the US Open drawing to a close this weekend, we turn our attention to the resumption of the Davis Cup competition with several stars, including Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, in play for their respective countries.

One star on the sidelines for Australia is trash-talking, break-taking, umpire-arguing, racket-throwing, crowd-criticizing, sock-changing Nick Kyrgios, who’s been left off his country’s Davis Cup team to work on “personal development.” Translation: He’s been sent to the time out corner. Indeed such is his status as tennis’ reigning bad boy that former reigning bad boy Bernard Tomic – he of the motorcycles, lap dances and fistfights – has been pressed into service for the saucy Aussies.

You know you’ve hit bottom when you’re team leaders would rather have Tomic than you. And that’s too bad, because Nick is talented and idiosyncratic in the manner of John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic. Certainly, there were plenty of people who enjoyed his brief but charismatic pairing with Canada’s tough, feisty Eugenie Bouchard in the mixed doubles at the Open (brief because Genie slipped in the locker room, sustaining a concussion). To hear the media and Twitterati tell it, there was a lot more going on than forehands and backhands. Was it  love (as in amour) or love (as in a big, fat tennis goose egg)? Or was it merely tennis’ version of “Rebel Without a Cause,” with Nick as James Dean and Genie as Natalie Wood in matching black Nike outfits with peach piping?

Vogue magazine – that is, editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, she of the aesthetic eye for male tennis flesh – has dubbed them “stars in the making.”

“…as partners, Eugenie Bouchard and Nick Kyrgios are the most compelling young duo in tennis right now,” Mark Guiducci writes on So there.

Not everyone shares Vogue’s and Grantland’s enthusiasm for the pair. “Beauty and the Beast” is a popular meme in the blogosphere for Nick and Genie. Could it be because she’s Grace Kelly beautiful and he’s tall, dark and handsome?

Emphasis on the word “dark.” (Kyrgios is of Malaysian-Greek descent.)

“Confront the contradiction,” Howard Bryant writes in the Aug. 17 edition of ESPN magazine. “Kyrgios’ offense isn’t the trash-talk but his specific embracement of black export – the music and style of hip-hop culture that has enveloped world youth culture. Black culture is youth culture. To accept Kyrgios’ style is to legitimize the streets, the lower classes; his diamond-eared game threatens a long-cultivated image of respectability.”

Bryant’s column, however, was written before Kyrgios threw Stan Wawrinka’s girlfriend under the bus at the Rogers Cup, announcing that she had slept with Nick’s bestie, which is what has really earned him the opprobrium of the tennis world, to say nothing of a $10,000 fine.

Good manners transcend race, gender, class – everything. You can wear a diamond earring or a backward baseball cap and still be a thoughtful human being. That’s just fashion, and one person’s rebellion is another’s respectability. Motorcycle jackets were once considered the garb of outlaws. Today they’re worn by socialites in evening gowns.

Nick has to learn to balance his colorful integrity with respect for others. Otherwise he’s going to be shut out of a lot more than Davis Cup.