northWhat the hell, Krygios, expert? King Kyrgios: the player who today has been criticized and psychoanalyzed more than anyone on the ATP Tour; who has become almost the dictionary definition of “divisive tennis star”; whose career has been defined as much by his battles with the media as by the men’s Top 10. The villain, the bad boy, the ungrateful, the brat. Imagining him putting aside a decade of trouble to step behind the microphone and take on the saccharine role of tennis analyst seems slightly incongruous. Yet here he is, in mid-profile from his spot on the Tennis Channel set, hands in his pockets, relaxing, laughing and joking with Brett Haber and Jim Courier like an old media pro. He is wearing a dark jacket and a lilac t-shirt. Match commentary is delivered with fluidity and authority. The cadence of the panel chat comes easy to him: like a good background player, he knows when to step in and when to hang back. His hair looks nice. It turns out that Kyrgios is pretty much the same on set as he is on the court: wildly opinionated and endlessly entertaining. Nick KyrgiosExpert: Why not?

Alone with Novak Djokovic, the Australian star is the player every tennis fan today should have an opinion about. I’ll say mine right up front: I love the guy. Yes, he is sometimes unpleasant on the court (no more than many others at the top of tennis, mind you), and his attacks on other players can hurt deeply. But whether he’s driving or crashing, the man is compulsively watchable. He has opinions and, unlike many other players on the current tour, the courage to express them. He trains himself, making him an exceptionally astute observer of the sport. Most importantly, he has a heavenly gift for hitting a small fluorescent ball on the court.

Knee and wrist injuries have kept him on the sidelines for much of this year, but we all remember Kyrgios’ 2022, when the man who thought his window had closed forever suddenly and excitingly found form. of his career. He He won the first set against Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. and filleting Daniil Medvedev in Flushing Meadows with the delicacy of a master sushi chef. A player who began his career as a mercurial purveyor of tweens and trick shots has now matured into something of the complete package. His authority comes not only from that precise serve, but from the exotic variety of movements he can perform from any position on the court: the split step, the volley, the forehand, the backhand touch. He is the only player on the current tour with the ability to turn the mundane into something magnificent; Among the many aesthetic peaks of his 2022 gold, he ridiculously turned the center of the court into an offensive weapon. Strength of character is as much the key to his late-career success as his technical prowess, a strength that is impossible to separate from Kyrgios’s combustibility, his continued flirtation with darkness: he is the Caravaggio of the ATP Tour, a tenebrist of the tennis that launches blinding rays. across the court as the storm of his personality rages on. Intelligence and bravery, that sense of a million perspectives yearning to break free, are not simply intangibles of the Nick Kyrgios experience, but somehow also manifest in his physical being, in the hunched gait of his walk, in that priestly walk.

All of which, in theory, should make him an ideal candidate to get on set and call some matches. And yet. He still had some apprehension about Kyrgios sitting in the expert’s chair, especially in the Tennis Channel, a smugly happy, tennis-daddy club-type network that seems an odd choice for Kyrgios with its who-cares jibe and splenic charm. How wrong I was to doubt him.

Kyrgios, called up as a late addition to the commentary roster for the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin, has been equal parts incisive and funny, doing nothing to hide his preference for players who “step in” and are willing to take some risks. In Wednesday’s match between Medvedev and Alexander Zverevthat was Zverev, while in Thursday’s Battle of the Rising Stars, was Jannik Sinner about Holger Rune: “Aggressive type tennis is rewarded on fast courts. “I want to see bang-bang, one-two tennis.” Zverev lost and Sinner won, a perfectly symmetrical result for the start of Kyrgios’ career in front of the cameras.

Surprisingly, the man heralded by the Tennis Channel as “the human highlight reel” has also done his fair share of filler, fanning the dead air with a “Here we go, two break points for Zverev” here and a “He needs some first”. serves here” there. He’s included nice bits of player lingo in his comments: “short answers” for short returns, encouraging Rune to “finish the set in good habits” after the Dane was towel-dried in the opening stanza against Sinner . He has had a solidly comic mistake: asking viewers to “look at the people who have had sex with Medvedev” before swallowing and quickly correcting to “success.” And he’s proven to be adept at finding interesting ways to say “that was a good shot,” which is, after all, what a lot of comments entail. Here was his decision after a magnificent backhand crosscourt by Sinner: “Unbelievable. Ridiculous. As. Question marks.”

Most illuminating of all has been the insight Kyrgios has offered into his own approach to facing the sport’s best players. We have learned that Medvedev’s serve can sometimes be disrupted because he tends to throw the ball too much to the right; that Kyrgios often “lies” with his ball throws (“One of my strengths is that I can do all the serves with different ball throws, you have to keep people guessing”); that he doesn’t warm up before games; that he was virtually training Rune for six months a few years ago after the young Dane entered his DMs for advice. When asked if he would prefer to be loved or genuine, Kyrgios immediately replied: “Genuine. I don’t mind being the villain. I have definitely experienced stadiums where not one person has been in my favor, it is a great feeling. You find a really dark energy when the whole stadium doesn’t want you to win, those are some of the best moments.”

Such candor has been a feature this year for Kyrgios, who has endured a reckoning of sorts. He has spent much of the season rehabbing his various injuries, but still managed to consistently make headlines. He admitted to pushing his ex-girlfriend but in February The assault charge brought against him over the incident was dismissed.; Kyrgios later publicly apologized for his actions. in may the helped Canberra police catch the man who stole a Tesla from his mother at gunpoint. During the summer he revealed who contemplated suicide after losing to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2019, part of a series of commendably frank revelations on his struggles with drinking and self-harm: “I ended up in a psychiatric ward in London to sort out my problems. I was drinking, abusing drugs, lost my relationship with my family, and alienated all my close friends. “You could tell he was suffering.” That emotion and directness are among the great assets of Kyrgios’ character; his willingness to show vulnerability marks him as a rare specimen among modern athletes, who are almost universally controlled and manipulated by the media to the point of robotic ennui.

Kyrgios has long had a contentious relationship with the media and the Australian tennis establishment, partly due to his disdain for authority, but also, in my opinion, because he does not fit the Anglo “nice guy” model. -Celtic that has been the traditional model of Australian tennis. pin up. It’s not Lew Hoad, or Pat Rafter, or Ken “Muscles” Rosewall; he’s not even a Lleyton Hewitt. He is a Greek-Malaysian boy from Canberra who is fanatically committed to the Boston Celtics. simulates sexual acts on the courtand he loves his mom. When I was a child, my Greek Cypriot grandmother used to call out anyone who made fun and tried to be funny “Karagiozis”, and I see something of that folk clown in Kyrgios, in his desire for provocation and comedy. Perhaps the only country that is comfortable enough with ungovernable complexity to truly accept it as it is is the United States. Given his walk around the set this week, all the shrugs, the gossip and the indifferent conversations about his beloved Celtics, that certainly seems to be the case.

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If there’s any news that came out of Kyrgios’ time behind the microphone, it’s that he plans to retire in a year or two: “Kygs has a year or two left, then I can sit back and watch these young guys do it.” he said during the Sinner-Rune match, although he noted that he may still seek Djokovic’s advice on “alien longevity issues.” This is not exactly new, since Kyrgios had already exposed his retirement plan before: last year said in an Instagram Q&A saying that once he turns 30, he’ll “probably go to my house in the Bahamas and just sit and do nothing.”

In the era of the Big Three we are used to players continuing into middle age, but until Roger Federer arrived, age 30 was generally considered the natural end point of a top tennis player’s time among the professionals. Björn Borg resigned at age 26; Marat Safin ruined his career on the tram lines after he turned 29; Pete Sampras hung up his baggy shorts at age 32. Kyrgios’ retirement once he passes 30 would be a reversion to the historical norm. But for anyone who loves tennis it would be a shame. The highest praise I can give this expert is that he immediately made me want to see him play again. Kyrgios the commentator, no matter how casually authoritative he is, will never be able to match Kyrgios the player, this volatile master of the lines. Tennis after Kygs will be more educated, more elegant and perhaps even more elegant. But it will be much less interesting.

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