July 2, 2020
Remember when Nick Kyrgios played Rafael Nadal on the first Thursday of Wimbledon last year?
Rarely had a first-week match been more keenly anticipated.
Let’s face it, Kyrgios v Nadal would have been serious box office based on the quality of tennis alone.
The Australian is talented enough to beat anyone on his day. He has victories to his name over so many of the very best in the business.
As is so often the case with Nick Kyrgios, however, there was a spicy subplot.
And there could be more spicy subplots at Wimbledon 2021 than we have ever seen before.
Last year it was Nadal who had felt disrespected when Kyrgios called his reaction to a previous defeat ‘super-salty.’
The tension added electricity to their Wimbledon clash. We couldn’t wait to see them do battle.
This year things aren’t so very different in the controversial world of Kyrgios.
True to form, Nick hasn’t exactly been diplomatic in his recent pronouncements on other major tennis figures.
Rightly or wrongly Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Boris Becker have been in the firing line.
Kyrgios has let them have it with both barrels. We won’t stir the pot any further by repeating those views here or taking sides.
But the result of Nick’s outspoken approach to life is inevitable. Now we can’t wait to see Kyrgios play Zverev or Djokovic again!
The spicy subplot is already in place. Interest in any such match is guaranteed.
That’s just human nature. It’s how our enjoyment of being a spectator at a sporting event is often intensified.
Who doesn’t want Kyrgios to play Sascha or Novak at Wimbledon 2021?
A spicy subplot often adds to the energy and quality of the drama on court.
Whether you agree with Nick or not, he speaks his mind. By doing so, he creates tension with other players.
If he targets our favourite players, we’ll probably disagree with Kyrgios vehemently.
We’ll want to see his words shoved back down his throat on the tennis court.
But it we support a position Kyrgios has taken during one of his many arguments, we’ll want to see him win against the rival he has criticised.
Whatever happens and whomever we support, we know there will be an extra crackle in the air.
Tennis fans like their heroes and they like their villains too. It’s the good old-fashioned pantomime effect.
As Serena’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglu has said recently, flaws in the personalities of major tennis stars can make them even more appealing.
Patrick seems to think there aren’t enough villains.
The angry release of tension isn’t always something to be condemned. Not if we admit to ourselves that we actually enjoy it.
Don’t we still celebrate the tantrums of the great John McEnroe as a player?
Nick Kyrgios likes a good argument. In fact if he carries on like this, he may soon have fallen out with as many fellow professionals as he actually gets on with.
He loves Andy Murray, of course. But does that always make for a good match? Nick loves Murray so much that he sometimes doesn’t seem to want to beat him.
Kyrgios certainly won’t have that attitude at Wimbledon 2021 if he faces Djokovic or Zverev.
It wasn’t like that when he faced Nadal on the first Thursday last year either.
When Kyrgios and Rafa exchanged 6-3 sets early on, the drama was on a knife-edge. Two tie-breaks added to the excitement.
Nadal had the upper hand psychologically when it really mattered in the breakers.
Peace broke out afterwards. Two exceptional human beings found a way to co-exist.
It had been an electrifying sporting occasion. And that often happens in the first week of Wimbledon.
We get treated to more than a few unexpected classics even before we reach the business end of the tournament.
So today would have been the first Thursday of Wimbledon.
Characters like Nick Kyrgios aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But boy, do they add some spice to our beautiful sport.
Nick is box office. We look forward to seeing him at Wimbledon 2021. Expect subplots!