Stop ex­pect­ing Nick to change

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion - KATIE BICE KATIE BICE IS SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN DEPUTY ED­I­TOR [email protected] @kt­bice

WE’VE wasted a lot of our time and en­ergy on try­ing to make Nick Kyr­gios some­one he’s not. So con­sider this a warn­ing. If his en­er­getic but enig­matic an­tics of­fend you, don’t watch him at the Aus­tralian Open.

He gave us a taste of what is to come last week in the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional when he scraped through the first round and then put on a typ­i­cally roller­coaster dis­play in the sec­ond against French­man Jeremy Chardy.

He won the first set, lost the sec­ond and then when down in the fi­nal set, flip-flopped be­tween want­ing to win and not want­ing to be seen to be want­ing to win … un­til he lost.

Kyr­gios then jumped on his phone court­side and wan­dered off to tell the me­dia how he “could not care less”.

It was a trade­mark per­for­mance and one sure to be re­peated when the big stuff kicks off in a week.

But that’s him. It’s what he does. And it’s time that we just left him alone to do it.

There is no longer any point in us try­ing to im­pose on him our ex­pec­ta­tions of what an Aus­tralian ten­nis player should look like.

We just need to ap­pre­ci­ate him as an en­ter­tainer who plays ten­nis. You’ll never have a dull mo­ment at a Kyr­gios match. If you want any­thing more, he’s not your man.

The ten­nis-lov­ing pub­lic have be­come caught in a vi­cious cy­cle with Kyr­gios and to a lesser ex­tent his mate Bernard Tomic.

We have a per­cep­tion of what an Aussie player should be, born out of the mem­ory of peo­ple such as Rod Laver, Pat Rafter and Lley­ton He­witt.

Ev­ery­one wants or hopes these two young men will be­have like those greats did. When they don’t, we crit­i­cise them, they bite back and the cy­cle re­peats it­self.

But these two are cut from a dif­fer­ent cloth. Kyr­gios is a prodi­gious nat­u­ral tal­ent who could have been a star in any sport and Tomic has a tal­ent built through the toil of grow­ing up with his fa­ther as his coach.

What they have in com­mon is a bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tion that has been car­ried for so long it has be­come dif­fi­cult to bear.

With Kyr­gios, fail­ing and then rail­ing against the crit­i­cism and dis­ap­point­ment is eas­ier than suc­ceed­ing and then hav­ing to live up to it.

Tomic has dropped so far off the radar in the past 12 months you can barely con­sider him one of our top ten­nis tal­ents any­more — which is a shame for ev­ery­one.

Even a late sea­son surge has failed to gar­ner any at­ten­tion.

So this year I’m break­ing the cy­cle and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to do the same. If you want a good show, watch Nick. If you want some­thing else, the good news is Aus­tralian ten­nis has plenty to of­fer.

Alex de Min­aur, 19, is our high­est-ranked male sin­gles player — and with good rea­son — he went from bat­tler to con­tender last year and drew com­par­isons with He­witt for his fight­ing qual­i­ties.

Read what you will into the fact He­witt has thrown his sup­port be­hind the young Syd­neysider, sit­ting court­side at his matches while be­ing up the back at Kyr­gios’s match last week.

De Min­aur spent much of his child­hood in Spain, but there was never any doubt which coun­try he would rep­re­sent.

“As soon as we moved back here, that was the first thing I wanted to do — play for Aus­tralia,” he said.

It’s the kind of at­ti­tude peo­ple say Kyr­gios lacks, and de Min­aur is also the type of kid who will rise to the chal­lenge rather than shirk it.

Kyr­gios had the ad­van­tage of size and a big serve from a young age that blew op­po­nents away with lit­tle ef­fort while de Min­aur has had to learn to fight, scrap and grind out matches be­cause he’s usu­ally out­matched in mus­cle.

The other shin­ing light is Ash Barty, who shared the New­combe Medal with de Min­aur last year.

Barty goes about her busi­ness so qui­etly she hasn’t at­tracted the same at­ten­tion as de Min­aur, but she’s also our main hope of hav­ing a player still in it dur­ing the sec­ond week of the Oz Open.

She has blitzed the dou­bles cir­cuit, in­clud­ing win­ning the US Open, and steadily climbed the sin­gles rank­ings as well.

We can also be sure Barty is play­ing ten­nis be­cause she wants to — in 2014 she was worn out by the cir­cuit and quit ten­nis in­def­i­nitely.

Af­ter a stint play­ing cricket, she re­turned to the game just over a year later and has been on an up­ward curve since.

Next week let’s con­cen­trate on those good sto­ries and take a break from the “bad boys”.

There’s a chance that, just like a kid hav­ing a tantrum, turn­ing our backs on them might be the best medicine.

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