Lessons in Life From Nick Kyrgios

Sports

Lessons in Life From Nick Kyrgios

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

If you mistakenly bumped into Nick Kyrgios’ page online, you’d realise that the controversies and misconduct section would outnumber his sporting achievements. There are reams of anecdotes and incidents on being fined and suspended for his behaviour on the court and unsurprisingly his brazenness spills over off the court too. He regretfully doesn’t have two personas. You can safely say Nick is not exactly Mr. Popular and nor is he going to be a loved and adored Grand Slam champion if he became one. He is after all one step closer now after making it to his maiden Grand Slam final thanks to Rafael Nadal pulling out of the much-anticipated semifinal encounter against the brat.

Nick makes us ask ourselves: When the ever-dignified and always prim & proper Roger Federer can walk these paths, Nick (by no admission of his own) says why can’t a foul-mouthed yet talented douche bag, tread the same ground. Glory does not identify with colour, race, good manners or grace. All it sees is skill. Which this brat grudgingly has quite a bit of.

Glory does not identify with colour, race, good manners or grace. All it sees is skill. Which this brat grudgingly has quite a bit of.

Nick has also made us realise there are different kinds of brats. One for whom it’s an extension of their bravado and desire to be the best in the world. They behave that way so that they can thump their chest and proclaim they are champions and in fact the brattiness sort of spurs them to be great. Like a John McEnroe. He swore and bored his way into opponents’ minds, made enemies out of every chair umpire right through his way to the top where he knew he belonged and where he indeed wanted to belong.

And then there is Kyrgios. He swears, rants, breaks racquets, spits his way to wherever the sport would take him. He doesn’t aspire to be great and win Grand Slams. After that final at Wimbledon, he is asked if this performance has made him hungry for more. He says ‘absolutely not’, rather emphatically. He follows that up by saying he needs a well-earned break now and maybe one day he’ll be back here again but he isn’t really counting on that. And to loud cheers he walks off to the side, sporting a bright red cap as a seemingly in-your-face-Wimbledon-royalty-and-rules gesture. What a crazy submission right. Winning only makes you want to win more. Atleast that’s how we as sports fans and probably failed sports persons ourselves have always grown to believing is true. Kyrgios tells us it needn’t be that way.

He swears, rants, breaks racquets, spits his way to wherever the sport would take him.

You can turn around and say well if winning or being the best didn’t really matter to Nick then why does he rant so much, why does he get so aggressive and nasty. That’s only because he believes he is not performing to the best of his abilities. There was this one time in 2016, when he was fined for ‘lack of best efforts’. He lost 3-6, 1-6 in a matter of 48 minutes during which he even goaded the umpire to call time soon so he could ‘finish the match and go home’. When asked later by the press if he owed his fans at least a better show he says, ‘What does that even mean?… If you don’t like it, I didn’t ask you to come watch. Just leave.’

He clearly has not put himself on any pedestal and he serves tennis fans constant reminders to pull him off it in case they have. He says you really don’t have to be perfect, in fact be flawed, you don’t need to win everything and you definitely don’t need to be the best. In a world of rat races, where the point of existence and the biggest yardstick to measuring success and achievement is in the numbers, here’s a tennis star telling you none of that matters at all.

In a world of rat races, where the point of existence and the biggest yardstick to measuring success and achievement is in the numbers, here’s a tennis star telling you none of that matters at all.

What’s the point then you may ask. Well maybe there isn’t a point at all. There isn’t any little hill in Melbourne Park that is likely to be renamed Nick Knoll and he doesn’t really care. And maybe that is okay. Say that to the three men at 20, 21 and 22, you would retort. As sports fans we come to watch Federer’s effortless grace, contrastingly Nadal’s bullish skills or Djokovic’s near-perfect game play. You know what you came for, you expect it and you are given exactly that. Nick doesn’t promise you anything because he expects nothing. There’s always the thrill of the unexpected then and that’s what he offers. Zero expectations but 100% entertainment.

Imagine living that way. You wouldn’t be dealing with the relentless pressure to perform, parents wouldn’t be comparing their sons to Sharma Ka beta who scored 99% in the exams, you wouldn’t be chided for not doing enough with examples of the people who did much more before you. Until that utopian reality comes to be, all you can do is probably relish certain aspects of what a complex character like Nick Kyrgios brings to the sport. For everything else there is the big three.

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