Nick Kyrgios’ latest admission about not loving tennis brought to attention a question which was raised not too long ago when Andre Agassi made similar confessions in his autobiography: How do you feel about a tennis champion who is not passionate about the sport?
I must admit I was initially shocked when I read Agassi’s book several years ago.
His negative comments about tennis made me question every time I admired the multiple grand slam champion and also made me realise no matter how closely you follow an athlete, and how highly you rate them, you never really know them.
After reading the book for a second time, I realised that Agassi loving or hating tennis did not really matter.
He was still the ex-world No1 who won eight majors, brought new meaning to the return shot, launched several comebacks and played until he was 36.
How he felt about the sport had no bearing on the entertainment factor he provided and the unforgettable tennis moments he created.
Which brings us back to Kyrgios. The young Aussie can be judged on many things, but him telling The Times “I definitely don’t love the sport” should not be one of them.
The reaction to his statement has been met with a lot of disdain from tennis fans on social media, with many mistaking his comment for a lack of commitment, and accusing him of “not taking the sport seriously”.
The way he acts on the court certainly shows that he cares.
While his outbursts with umpires can be toned down, there is little else Kyrgios can be criticised for at the moment.
He has been super-focused in his matches, bringing the wow-factor almost every time, has amassed a 22-7 win-loss record for the season, which included a title run in Marseille, and has more top-10 wins than anyone else in 2016, barring Novak Djokovic.
If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is.
Do I need Kyrgios to love tennis in order for me to be entertained while watching him play? Absolutely not!
Cool tweeners will still be cool tweeners whether Kyrgios was madly in love with the sport or not.
It is true that Kyrgios often oscillates between extreme passion to utter indifference within moments, whether on the court, or in press conferences, but perhaps this is his way of keeping things in perspective, reducing the pressure of expectation on himself and being able to bring his best tennis when it matters most on court.
Maybe if he did love the sport more he wouldn’t be able to play that way, with so much abandon in his shots.
He treats tennis like it is his job, which essentially it is, and we all know not everyone is passionate about their jobs.
Kyrgios predicts “there is zero chance that Nick Kyrgios will be playing tennis when he’s 30 years old” but you never know, Agassi’s feelings towards the sport changed as time went by and things might change for the Aussie too.
For now, Kyrgios is willing to put in the hard yards, show up on court and entertain the crowd.
He will continue to make mistakes and umpires should and will continue to reprimand him. He will continue to be curt with the press while showing his true self every once in a while.
And not too far in the future, he will more than likely become a grand slam champion because he is talented and when he’s on, he is very, very difficult to beat.
Instead of goading him about being honest and confessing he doesn’t love the sport, how about we give him less reasons to hate it?
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