international tennis

‘Tennis is just a game’: Nick Kyrgios reflects on life, career and ‘tanking’ against lesser names

The temperamental 22-year-old has garnered a reputation of being the bad boy of tennis over the last few years.

Nick Kyrgios is currently leading Australia’s hopes against Belgium in the away tie in Brussels in the Davis Cup semi-final this week. But, despite being his country’s best prospect at the moment, the 22-year-old has gone on to be the face of controversies in the few years he has been in the pro circuit.

However, even as he continues to divide opinion with his temperament, Kyrgios put down his thoughts in about what made him click as a player and his ambitions in life, beyond tennis.

Kyrgios: Contender in big matches?

Describing himself as a player who “loves to win”, Kyrgios reiterated that he was at his best – and fulfilling his potential – when playing against the best players in the world. “When I’m in the right frame of mind, I feel unbeatable,” shared Kyrgios. “When I’m in that frame of mind – when motivation levels are high – I feel like I can beat anyone who steps out on the court. The match is on my racquet and the ultimate result is up to me.”

In that context, Kyrgios recalled his wins over Novak Djokovic in Acapulco and Indian Wells at the start of the 2017 season and his most recent upset over Rafael Nadal at the Cincinnati Masters in August.

“It’s easy to get up for a match like that,” he observed. “[It’s a] big name opponent. [It’s the] centre court. [It’s a] huge challenge. I love that. It’s against the lower ranked guys on the back courts where I can’t get it together and tank.”

And speaking of “tanking”, his maverick behaviour during matches has often seen Kyrgios being clubbed as part of the same narrative as his compatriot Bernard Tomic, who looks to have lost his way in the sport in spite of being touted as a future player to watch out for.

Not in the ‘same category’ as Tomic

Kyrgios, however, minced no words as he sought to separate himself from Tomic’s waywardness. “You’d also be wrong if you tried to lump me in the same category as Tomic,” Kyrgios pointed out. “Bernie has lost his way. He needs to figure out what he wants to do. I can’t relate to anything he says anymore.”

He also added, “He [Tomic] says one thing and he does the other. And he contradicts himself all the time. He says tennis doesn’t make him happy, that he doesn’t really like the game, yet he says the only thing that will really make him happy is winning a grand slam. It doesn’t make sense at all.”

Kyrgios also stated that unlike Tomic, who looked at his continuity in the sport from a purely monetary perspective, he wasn’t interested in playing tennis for money’s sake. “I just love being a normal guy and having enough money to live a normal life. I don’t need the excess money at all,” mentioned Kyrgios, while also referring to his family – especially his grandmother, Julianah Foster, whose death in 2014, he added altered his perceiving of tennis irrevocably.

Death the unexpected leveller

“If I’m honest, I’d say I haven’t committed to tennis the way the game needs me to since she died,” Kyrgios said, adding that he felt his involvement with tennis prevented him from being with his grandmother in her last days.

And, it was because of this forced separation brought about by his involvement in tennis, he observed, was the reason for him to withdraw from tournaments in the mid-2017 season following his grandfather’s death earlier this year. Death, he stated, had made him realise, “Tennis is not very important in the scheme of things. It’s just a game. We hit a ball over the net.”

His grandmother’s death keenly motivated Kyrgios off-court too. Stating that he has built a shelter at the Lyneham Tennis Centre in Canberra where she used to accompany him when he used to train when he was younger, Kyrgios also added that he wanted to make a difference to the lives of those children, who lacked affordability to play sports.

Kyrgios’s objective of continuing with professional tennis is simple: so that he can “earn enough money” to establish a sporting arena for children where they could freely play any sport of their choice, from basketball to tennis, and even to swimming.

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