EThere was argument and loud play on this spectacular Saturday night, and Nick Kyrgios was certainly right about one statement after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas (6: 7, 6: 4, 6: 3, 7: 6). “We’re not cut from the same cloth. If you saw me playing basketball at home, these guys are dogs. The people I play at Wimbledon are not. And he’s so soft when he comes here and says I bullied him.”
The word the Australian originally used at this point was “bully”, and there are many possible translations for this: to bully, to bully, to harass or even to harass. Tsitsipas had it bully brought into play a good half hour beforehand. “He does it all the time,” he said, “he was probably like that at school. I do not like bulliesand he has a very bad side.”
It was the aftermath of a meeting between two guys who couldn’t be more different. On the one hand provocateur Nick, on the other the soft Stefanos. One plays best and feels strongest when it’s banging, hissing and rattling around him, the other wants to unfold his art in peace, and in this tension the Greek lost track. Frustrated at losing the second set, he hit a ball out to the right towards the crowd and was lucky he didn’t hit anyone.
Tsitsipas must be disqualified, Kyrgios immediately demands from chair umpire Damien Dumusois, but he saw no reason to do so. Kyrgios also later insisted on this point of view, but was probably wrong. Longtime former Australian referee Richard Ings commented on Twitter: “Putting the ball into the crowd does not automatically result in disqualification. I would have thought that Kyrgios would now have a more concrete understanding of the code of conduct.” After all the years and penalties that the Australian has been through.
But he also found the opponent’s accusation of bullying strange because, in his opinion, things had been the other way around. “I didn’t do anything, he was the one who shot balls at me.” Which, in fact, he was right about. Tsitsipas tried to hit his opponent three times, but had only limited success, as he himself confirmed. He just wanted to stop the other. Someone has to sit down and talk to Kyrgios, it just can’t go on like this. But he hit back when he said: “I would be upset too if I lost to someone twice in two weeks. Maybe he should just figure out how to beat me first.”
The hallowed halls of tennis shook that evening and 10,000 spectators on Court 1 seemed to be enjoying themselves. Anyone sitting in the stadium does not understand exactly what is being said, shouted or shouted at. The television condenses the action. Unless someone turns the camera in a different direction at the crucial moment, as happened with the eagerly awaited handshake of the combatants at the net. Well, the handshake happened, but Tsitsipas made sure the touch was as brief as possible. The Greek was frustrated, disappointed, angry – also at himself for allowing himself to be provoked.
Kyrgios in the footsteps of Nastase, Connors or McEnroe
And Kyrgios? The guy is one of the best, most talented tennis players to ever hit a ball over the net on this planet. And with his style of play, with his appearance, he creates an atmosphere that many perceive as a great enrichment and change. Every play, every film treats itself to an antagonist to the hero in order to increase the suspense. What would Batman be without the Joker, Robin Hood without the Sheriff of Nottingham?
Kyrgios is following in the footsteps of Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe, but even he is torn about the assessment and said it was sad and nice to watch him at the same time. But the one point where there shouldn’t be any discussion is the disrespectful and abusive way Nick Kyrgios treats linesmen and referees. How is it that he says to the man in the chair, “You’re a disgrace” and then nothing happens? If he were to afford something like that in, say, a sport like rugby, which is known not to be played by wimps, he would face a long ban.
In the next round this Monday, the loudest, most colorful and unpredictable man in modern tennis will play against a 20-year-old American who is considered one of the quietest, Brandon Nakashima. Certainly, even after this game, many people will claim that the sport needs characters like Kyrgios to inspire new fans. He thinks so too. You can find it exciting, that’s undisputed. But if you continue to behave like the ax in the forest, you have to reckon with the fact that some trees will not like you.