In his review of the Public Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, The New York Times chief drama critic Ben Brantley describes the title antihero — a brilliant Roman general with no people skills — thusly:
“He’s all unedited impulse, and watching him try to control his peacetime temper evokes the irresistibly awful spectacle of a tantrum-prone tennis star losing it on the court. (Ian McKellen has said that his 1984 performance as Coriolanus at the National Theater was partly inspired by John McEnroe.)”
You wonder what Shakespeare might’ve done with Nick Kyrgios, tennis’ reigning bad boy. Unlike McEnroe, a perfectionist who turned much of his anger in on himself, Kyrgios is an equal opportunity anger performance artist unafraid to punch above his weight class and take on the big boys like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, on or off the court or slut-shame Stan Wawrinka’s girlfriend or argue endlessly with umpires, fans and himself.
This past week was vintage Kyrgios. He was electrifyingly triumphant at Citi Open in Washington, D.C., beating Danil Medvedev in the final, though the marquee matchup was Kyrgios against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinal, a taut encounter between polar opposites that could’ve gone either way. That Kyrgios held it together long enough to win showed real maturity. And you could’ve been forgiven for thinking, well, this time things will be different.
Then came Tuesday and the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Kyrgios went down in straight sets to Kyle .Edmund in a match dominated by Kyrgios’ discomfort with, yes, towels. And you realize that nothing has changed, nor is it likely to.
And that’s a shame, because you want to root for Kyrgios, whom you sense is a raw nerve with arms and legs in need of a hug or a friend. He’s attractive, charismatic and talented. Players as different as Roger Federer and Djokovic think he could be a top player if not the top. But he seems to lack the temperament for an individualistic sport that is in its own way mentally as brutal as boxing. (It’s interesting that Kyrgios is a big devotee of basketball, a team sport.)
Experts say he does better in a team environment, but his skill set marked him for tennis, not basketball. Now it’s on to the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, which begins tomorrow and offers a relatively relaxed environment, and then to the US Open in New York, a city that cuts both ways for the Kyrgioses of the world. On the one hand, New York has a high tolerance of spectacle. On the other hand, it is a city that is less about who you are than what you do.
Will Citi Open Kyrgios show up in these places or Rogers Cup Kyrgios?
Only time will tell — again.