What would we do without Nick Kyrgios? After years of aloof politesse (Roger Federer), passive-aggressive classiness (Rafael Nadal), molten anger lying beneath an earthy crust of sportsmanship (Novak Djokovic) and barely contained annoyance (Andy Murray), we have no-holds-barred, heart-on-his-basketball sleeve Nick – railing against the slings and arrows of his outrageous fortune.
During his first-round French Open victory against Marco Cecchinato of Italy, Nick was assessed a code violation after barking “Towel” at a ball person who responded with less than alacrity.
“How can you sit there and give me a code for that, but when (Novak) Djokovic pushes an umpire out of the way, that’s all right?” Nick asked chair ump Carlos Ramos.
Nick was referring to Nole pushing aside an umpire’s hand while they examined where the ball landed on the red clay court during the Italian Open final, which he lost in straight sets to Andy Murray.
“I mean, I think we all know in this room that if that was me that did that, it would be an absolute circus,” Nick continued during the post-match presser. “But if he did it, you know, nothing really happened of it. It speaks for itself.”
And then some: As leader of the pack, Nole has a responsibility to set an example – whether it be on the subject of equal pay for women or respect for umpires, linesmen and women and ball persons. But Nick reminds me of the young pups in those nature programs who are always challenging the alpha for supremacy. (Note the way he went after Stan Wawrinka, who looks like he could easily flatten him, by trashing Stan’s girlfriend.) The truth is that with the exception of Rafa, Fed, Nole and Andy were hardly teen angels on the court. But over time, they have built reputations as champions and sportsmen who learned how to keep their emotions in check, so that when they occasionally lose it, they get the benefit of the doubt.
Nick seems to be carving out a bramble path previously traveled by John McEnroe, who has told him to cool it. Nick, however, is no McEnroe – yet. He hasn’t earned anything. He has nothing in the bank of public opinion and good will to drawn on. Still, Nick can be fun, charismatic and sexy. But he needs to temper his anger with some perspective.
You can’t rush maturity. Nick needs to bide his time. Some day he may be the alpha the wolf pups are looking to challenge.
And he may find it was easier to be the hunter than the hunted.