By Leighton Ginn
Tennis fans who know about Nick Kyrgios are not ambivalent about him: They either love him and the sublime talent he posses, or they get annoyed by his antics.
There were the comments to Stan Wawrinka about his girlfriend and another player, or the accusations of tanking matches. Commentator John McEnroe has harshly criticized Kyrgios for his lack of dedication to the sport, once suggesting he retire.
“I don’t think I’m a bad guy at all. Honestly, like, I have had a couple of mix-ups in the court, but that’s in the heat of the battle, but that’s when you’re competing or you’re angry,” Kyrgios said. “Off the court, I haven’t done anything against the law. I haven’t drink-drive, haven’t shot someone, I haven’t stolen. I’m not a bad person. In the scheme of things, you put it in perspective, I’m really not a bad person.”
If he’s not bad, he does have his moments.
But the talent is there.
Kyrgios recorded his second consecutive victory against No. 2 Novak Djokovic in two tournaments. He’s also picked up wins against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Of the three, they have a combined 44 Grand Slam singles titles.
“I’m very impressed him taking out Novak, back-to-back weeks, on Novak’s best surface,” said Federer, who will face Kyrgios in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. “I hope it’s going to lead to something great for Nick that he realizes if he puts his head down and focuses (so) that he can bring it day in and day out, week in and week out.
“That’s maybe going to take a bit more time … because when it matters the most against the best and in finals, he’s there. Eventually he will need that, but that’s a great quality to have already now.”
For fans who overlook the behavior, Kyrgios also has a go-for-broke style that will endear people. On Wednesday, Kyrgios remained aggressive with his second serves to keep Djokovic at bay.
“I have lost some matches from it. I have won some matches from it. I’m okay if I go for it,” Kyrgios said. “It’s a high percentage for me to go big under pressure. That’s my game style. If I miss, I miss, but I know I went down playing my game.”