Nick Kyrgios’s recent misconduct and subsequent eight week suspension at the Shanghai Masters once again draws our attention to an outstanding talent struggling to realise his privileged position in the professional sporting world, a world many never get a sniff at.
The Australian world number 14 Nick Kyrgios has been banned for eight tournament weeks and fined $25,000 for his unsportsmanlike behaviour at the Shanghai Masters last week. Kyrgios was guilty of several unacceptable offences and court violations, some both petty and outrageous, during his match against Misha Sverev. Kyrgios not only lost to a player ranked over 100 places below him, but was utterly disinterested throughout: lightly tapping the ball over the net to serve then walking to his chair before the point had finished at one stage, swearing to fans and arguing with the umpire, asking him to “call time so I can finish this match and go home” midway through, some of the notable misdemeanors.
Kyrgios has, fortunately for himself, agreed to an ATP plan in which he consult a sport psychologist over his behaviour not just at the Shanghai Masters but also over incidents dating back to 2014. Upon consultation with the psychologist his ban will be reduced to three weeks. Contrary to some of his post match comments, Kyrgios did have some remorseful words in his press conference: “I regret that my year is ending this way. I do understand and respect the decision by the ATP. The season has been a long one as I battled several injuries and other challenges towards the end of the summer. My body finally just gave out in Shanghai both physically and mentally. This is no excuse, and I know very well that I need to apologise to the fans.”
Kyrgios’ professionalism, as mentioned, dates back to 2014 where at the US Open he was almost disqualified for for audible obscenities and racquet smashing. In the 2015 Australian open he was fined $4296 for smashing his racquet and audible offences such as swearing. Wimbledon 2015 was also eventful for Kyrgios. His match against Juan Monaco saw him demand of the umpire: “What did he just say to you?” after a line judge complained to the umpire about a string of expletives, before losing his temper when he was not provided with this information. “Does it feel good to be up there in that chair? Does it make you feel strong?”. Later on in the tournament he was fined fined $12,470 for unsportsmanlike conduct against Richard Gasquet. For several points in the third set Kyrgios mentally vacated the match, refusing to play, much like last week in Shanghai. The same match he was also fined $2625 for swearing.
Perhaps one of his worst defences came during a match against Stanislas Wawrinka in Montreal, 2015. Kyrgios transgressed the boundary of not only sportsmanlike conduct but common decency, mentioning to Wawrinka that “Thanasi Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend”. He was fined fined $13,127, handed suspended penalties of $32,818 and a 28-day ban for this offence. Swearing fines were also tallied up at the Australian, French Open and Wimbledon this year. This years Wimbledon proved to be particularly damaging for Kyrgios, not learning from a $3360 fine against Radek Stepanek for a spat with the chair umpire in the opening round, to then find himself hammered by another of more than $5000 for losing it against Dustin Brown in the second round, to then finish off by labelling his support team “retarded”.
There have been many notable personalities to denounce Kyrgios’ behaviour as an abuse of the privilege of being a professional sportsman, a privilege few attain. Australian Rugby legend Michael Lynagh made his feelings known after a match with Andy Murray: “Well done Andy Murray. Give this guy a hiding. He is a disgrace,”. John McEnroe has commented in the past that “it doesn’t look like Kyrgios wants to be out there”. BBC presenter John Inverdale called him ‘pitiful’ during his match with Gasquet in 2015. Former Australian cricket legend Shane Ward echoed Lynagh’s thoughts: “You’re testing our patience mate—show us what you’re made of and how hungry you are to be the best in the world”.
There is no doubt Kyrgios can be placed in a certain category of modern athletes who, because of stupid and unprofessional behaviour, waste their talents. Although most of Kyrgios’ offences and misdemeanours have come on the field of play, they are offences equally equitable to those off it, such as perhaps smoking and drinking, because they leave him in a position where he is culpable of wasting his talent and abusing his privilege. With this in mind, can he be comparable to sportsman such as Tyson Fury who was recently found guilty of taking cocaine and forced to retire. Or, perhaps the likes of Jack Wilshere, Danny Cipriani, Manu Tuilagi and Ravel Morrison, who in the past have raised questions over their ability to fulfil their potentials after night club bust ups, smoking, drinking and other off-field disgraces.
Nick Kyrgios must take advantage of the time he is due to spend with the ATP psychologist in order to get his career on the right path and develop a professional attitude towards tennis. Lets not forget this is a guy who has beaten Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon and is ranked number 14 in the world, but right now things need to improve.