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Nick Kyrgios paves new path for professional tennis, challenges elitist nature

Photo used with permission from carine06/Flickr
Nick Kyrgios practices alongside fellow Australian tennis player Jordan Thompson at Roland Garros in 2017. Kyrgios is known for his unorthodox style, and he gained traction after uncharacteristic wins during the 2022 season.

Imagine this: you are sitting at a Wimbledon final in 1992, watching tennis legends Steffi Graf and Monica Seles play in their crisp white uniforms as the women hit groundstrokes baseline to baseline. Fast-forward 30 years, and on the same grass courts, you see 6-foot-4-inch Nick Kyrgios walk up to his bench in red Jordan sneakers and a coordinating baseball cap, win games by hitting his infamous between-the-leg shots.

So, who is Kyrgios? The 27-year-old is an Australian professional tennis player who has recently gained recognition for his uncharacteristic successes at Grand Slams last year, reaching the finals at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. 

Known for his shameless underhand serves and frequent between-the-legs shots, Kyrgios’ claim to fame is his entertainment factor. An article from Eurosport cites Kyrgios’ strategy as “a clown show,” but this minimizes the player’s genius. His versatility and unpredictability shake many experienced players, making him the ultimate underdog to support. 

In my eyes, Kyrgios’ nonchalant approach to the game shifts the previously elitist landscape – one in which only the most wealthy could afford to play tennis in membership clubs. Adding a casual component to his demeanor on the court makes tennis feel more accessible and has the potential to grow the sport to wider audiences. 

Why should one question Kyrgios’ method when it has led to victories against tennis greats such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal? It doesn’t take a rally of 30 shots for Kyrgios to wait for an unforced error when his tactical slice can finish the point in five instead. 

There is no doubt that along with the heaps of support and love for Kyrgios, admiration of his skills is often drowned out by criticism of his behavior and etiquette. It is estimated that Kyrgios has paid £458,000 in fines throughout his career, from using inflamed language with the audience and officials to smashing racquets on the court, according to The Independent

On the tour, Kyrgios tends to butt heads with a few of his colleagues. One of his most recent encounters at Wimbledon in 2022 was in a third-round match with fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who said in the post-match interview that a confrontation between Kyrgios and the other players on the ATP tour was pending. Tsitsipas also went on to call Kyrgios a bully – a sentiment that other professionals have not shared. 

Graphic and video by Rudi Chamria

At times, it is difficult to defend Kyrgios’ poor behavior. Much like American tennis player John McEnroe, who was undoubtedly talented but known to the world as a hothead, Kyrgios has gained more attention due to his reactive nature on court rather than his immense skill. 

Kyrgios is naturally talented, and again, often criticized for this trait. Kyrgios describes himself as a “part-time player,” often skipping major stops on the tour, according to France24. Compared to elite players with intensive training schedules like Novak Djokovic, it feels like a slap in the face to tennis fans when he tells them he prefers basketball to tennis. 

However, when one learns more about Kyrgios, he explains how pursuing professional tennis has negatively affected his mental health. Kyrgios, along with players like Naomi Osaka, pave the way for tennis stars to open up about their mental struggles while playing the game. In a one-player game like tennis, exposing his vulnerabilities to opponents shows great strength. 

Ultimately, Kyrgios is an unquestionably talented and unique player and holds the power to change the perception of tennis far beyond his career. 

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About the Contributor
Rudi Chamria
Rudi Chamria, Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Online
Rudi Chamria (’24) is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Online of The Standard. She joined the newspaper in Grade 9 as a staff writer because she enjoys connecting with people through interviewing and utilizing her platform to highlight underrepresented voices. In addition to her role on The Standard, Chamria leads the Social Justice Council, plays tennis and engages in community service.

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