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Rivard: We need to talk about Nick

Jun 22, 2022
written by: Paul Rivard
written by: Paul Rivard

Last week, a call on social media for the circus to get rid of its clown caught my attention. It didn’t take me very long to understand who the poster was referring to. 

The fact that I was watching Nick Kyrgios versus Stefanos Tsitsipas, the second seed at the Halle Open, made it all that much easier to deduce. Especially since, as is often the case, Kyrgios was being Kyrgios. Not in terms of his game but in terms of his behaviour, which continues to crimp his unbelievable potential. 

And yet…

The words circus and clown and their clearly negative connotation are often used by those who abhor Nick’s attitude. And a lot of people do.  

Nick Kyrgios is polarizing. There are the pro-Kyrgios and the anti-Kyrgios camps. 

Among laypeople and fanatics, some, myself included, enjoy his tennis. 

Others can’t stand watching him disregard the sport’s rules of conduct or tolerate his recurring mood swings and inclination to give up when he gets too distracted. 

Photo: Dave Hunt

And yet, every time we think he’s lost to obscurity, the big kid gets back in the game. Literally and metaphorically. 

After losing to Daniil Medvedev early on at the AO, Nick fell to No.137. But then he won 16 of his last 21 matches and soared to No.45 after back-to-back German semis (Stuttgart and Halle). That’s 92 ranking points.

He knocked over the likes of Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev, Tommy Paul, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Pablo Carreno Busta along the way. 

Photo: TennisTV

Rockets were flying in his semi in Halle against Hubert Hurkacz. There were 57 aces (30 for Nick) and some mind-blowing rallies. In his two previous matches, Kyrgios hit the massive shots he’s known for and even trotted out a behind-the-back half-volley, a tweener and an underarm serve.   

Tennis’ bad boy made the show worth the ticket price. 

And like the misunderstood talent he is, he’s able to captivate any fan with a few shots, a smile here and there and some decisive wins. 

Even those who are weary of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act.

Photo: ATPTour.com

There have been countless articles on the 27-year-old’s potential. There are also are miles and miles of text on his insufferable behaviour, inability to follow the rules of a traditional sport, tendency to ruin a match and all the fun in the process, need to try impossible shots for himself and the crowd, et cetera.  

Photo: Getty

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nicholas Hilmy Kyrgios were a thesis topic in psychology departments around the world. You must admit it’s an amusing idea that isn’t totally far-fetched. 

If he can stay interested in competitive tennis, he could be around for several more years and even sneak back into the Top 20 or Top 15. 

I’ve always said it loud, clear and in caps: TOO MUCH TALENT IN ONE PERSON. 

The minute he’s done with the ATP, he’ll be flooded with invitations to all sorts of exhibition matches. 

At the risk of being sneered and jeered at by purists, I’m convinced that Nick Kyrgios is good for tennis, even with his dark side. 

He’s an artist whose talent is virtually limitless. And like many artists, he’s a free spirit. 

And his own worst enemy.

Félix serves up some solid tennis

Photo: USOpen.org

Over the years, Félix Auger-Aliassime has been perfecting his game and his consistency in particular.  

While he’s recognized as one of the most methodical, most athletic and quickest players in the men’s game, he’s definitely added power and accuracy to his serve over the past 18 months.

In 2021, Félix ended the season at No.9 overall and in the race for aces, with an average of 9 per match. Really, you can’t make this up. 

He’s currently no.4 and heading towards an average of 10 aces per match. With 45 matches played (that’s 17 fewer than last year), he seems on track to better his total, if he can stay healthy. He’s only 113 away. 

Photo: AFP

Here are those rankings ahead of the final lead-ins before Wimbledon, which is a best-of-five event at which he should be able to rack up more aces if he can play his way into week two. 

Aces leaderboard (June 20, 2022) 

AcesMatchesAverage per match
1J. Isner5392521,56
2R. Opelka4783015,93
3H. Hurkacz4523911,59
4F. Auger-Aliassime44745 9,9
5S. Tsitsipas381497,78
16D.Shapovalov257298,86

Home invasion

Photo: Firtssportz.com

It can be amusing when it happens, but it really isn’t funny. 

As if the knife attack on Monica Seles nearly 30 years ago hadn’t taught us a sufficiently concerning lesson, lax stadium security could one day lead to injury or worse. 

There has been a disturbing uptick in the number of incursions onto professional tennis courts of late.

Just a few weeks after a similar incident at Roland-Garros, the latest episode happened during the final in Halle, when an eco-protester tried to tie herself to the net (a new trend) to give onlookers the chance to read her message about the climate emergency: three years left

The incident occurred as Hubert Hurkacz was leading 5-0 in the opening set against Daniil Medvedev. Watch it here, around 0:25. 

Seventeen days earlier, just as Casper Ruud was about to serve in the third against Marin Cilic on Court Philippe-Chatrier at Roland-Garros, an eco-protester tied her neck to the net. Her message: We have 1028 days left.

Note the seconds that go by before all the security guards become aware of her presence and finally react. Worrying and almost embarrassing.

This video filmed by someone in the stands shows the various stages of handling the problem before the offender is finally ejected. 

Paris seems to be a magnet for this type of occurrence. In 2009, a Spanish fan managed to run up to Roger Federer. Nothing bad happened, but he certainly could have been injured if the trespasser’s intentions had been more hostile. 

Four years later, Fed’s eternal rival and friend Rafael Nadal found himself in a similar situation on the very same court.

The worst moment in tennis happened when then World No.1 Monica Seles was stabbed on court.

Leading 6-4, 4-3 in her quarterfinal showdown with Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria in Hamburg, Seles had just sat down when Günter Parche, an unemployed worker, jumped out of the stands and plunged a knife into her back.  

Fueled by his obsession with Steffi Graf, Parche wanted his idol to take back the No.1 ranking, which she did five weeks later. 

The assault left Seles with only a superficial scar but plunged her into a deep depression from which it took her 28 months to emerge. 

As far as court invasions go, a lot of people crack a smile when they recall the incident at the 1996 Wimbledon final. As Richard Krajicek and MaliVai Washington were posing for the official photo before their match, a streaker burst onto the court. 

There were no shouts of “shocking!”, the cliché often attributed to the British, but rather smiles of amusement on the faces of most people in the stadium, including the two finalists and even the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

It was certainly the most comical and least dramatic of the on-court disruptions. No concerns were raised and Melissa Johnson, a 23-year-old waitress, got what she wanted. She impressed her friends and won her bet.

Email: privard@tenniscanada.com

Twitter: @paul6rivard

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