#360debate: Is Nick Kyrgios good for the sport of tennis?

Sport360 staff 08:19 17/08/2015
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Controversial: Kyrgios.

There has been much debate in tennis over recent years about the need for characters. However, fans of the sport may now be getting more than they bargained for in the form of Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios.

Kyrgios has been embroiled in a number of controversies this year, notably being accused of throwing a game at Wimbledon, as well as threatening to stop playing at the same tournament after a dispute with an umpire.

However, his latest misdemeanour this week in which he “sledged” opponent Stan Wawrinka regarding his girlfriend Donna Vekic, 18, has brought widespread condemnation from players on both the men’s and women’s tour, as well as punishment from the sport’s authorities.

Today’s #360debate is: Is Nick Kyrgios good for tennis?

James Piercy, deputy editor, thinks YES.

Without wanting to get too much into the wrongs of exactly what Nick Kyrgios said to Stan Wawrinka – as it’s been discussed to death – the Australian was out of order.

Kyrgios, or more specifically his mum, dubbed it a ‘sledge’. But then the beauty of such a term is that it is loaded with wit. The insult was simply crass and the average schoolchild could come up with something more inventive.

However, moving on from that, the bigger debate is where Kyrgios stands in the wider world of tennis as the 20-year-old is something of an anomaly in the modern game.

He’s a villain. Strange as it may seem not all the players on Tour get on with each other, yet the constant and often tedious pleasantries that are exchanged does often imply they’re all best friends.

Yes, there have been some moderate fall-outs between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova but, to the public, the rivalry between the top two in the women’s game is hardly a vitriolic one.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer don’t see eye-to-eye yet you’d never know. It’s a constant stream of compliments between them whenever they play. Outwardly it’s respectful, of course, but there’s a certain falseness behind it, wrapped up in the corporate beast of tennis.

Players simply cannot afford to be seen as confrontational. They know, or assume, it will affect their ‘brand’ and subsequently their earnings.

– Toronto: Bencic beats Simona Halep to take Rogers Cup crown
– Montreal: Andy Murray beats Novak Djokovic to take title
– #360view: Kyrgios’ latest debacle and his comment towards Wawrinka

The result is rivalries that aren’t really that. Too many are founded on this invented mutual respect. It can get a little boring. Sport needs needle and, sometimes, it needs villainous figures.

John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors loathed each other throughout their duels during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It made for a series of compelling match-ups, some we’ve never quite seen before. Although it was slightly less abrasive, so too McEnroe v Ivan Lendl.

Kyrgios’ attitude as somebody who really doesn’t care what everyone thinks of him should be embraced. The issue will come if and when it affects his progress in the sport, for he is a deeply talented individual.

Enough of the polished routines and nice guy acts, anger between players is an energy tennis needs. 

Reem Abulleil, reporter, thinks NO.

There’s been this common theme in tennis since Nick Kyrgios showed up where he is being described as the answer to the sport’s desperate need for ‘characters’.

What many have failed to specify is what kind of ‘characters’ would actually aid the sport and what kind would wreak havoc.

Kyrgios had been walking the fine line between both but his latest on-court verbal barb directed at Stan Wawrinka firmly took him from occasional entertainer to persona non grata.

Public animosity between players may be lacking on Tour, and is something that could make for fun match-ups. But making misogynistic, out-of-line comments is not the way you’d want a rivalry to kick off and is not something that should ever be condoned.

Tennis is essentially based on ethics and respect and what Kyrgios is teaching his legions of young fans is that it’s okay to act like a complete imbecile on court as long as you’re winning – which is a comment I’ve personally read from a 17-year old Kyrgios loyalist.

If Kyrgios’ antics, like harassing umpires – and now players – were only affecting himself, then it shouldn’t be as big of a problem but the trouble is that he isn’t punished by officials even half as much as he should be and he is dragging other people into his mess.

The ripple effects of his Montreal shenanigans have reached Cincinnati as Ryan Harrison found himself provoked by Kyrgios’ Wawrinka slur and he took it out on the Aussie’s best friend, Thanasi Kokkinakis.

The diplomatic likes of Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal may seem ‘boring’ in comparison but those two are also idolised by millions, are the sport’s biggest tickets and are considered all-time icons of tennis. How can Kyrgios make a case for himself in the face of that?

He may act like he doesn’t care about how he is viewed but he certainly does, which is why he keeps lashing out at the media who criticise him.

One or two slip-ups can be forgiven but if that turns into a stream of controversial behaviour then you start getting fans who are tuning in for the wrong reasons and the essence of the game risks becoming obsolete. 

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