Wimbledon 2015: For all his rough edges, the game needs Nick Kyrgios's fresh approach

Tennis is sanitised, serious and safe. It needs personality to broaden its appeal

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The Independent Online

There will be some sermonising now about Nick Kyrgios and the consequences of swearing, directing the words “dirty scum” towards umpires, bouncing tennis rackets into spectators and deliberately netting service returns in an act of protest. Not everything he has done looked good. But how the Wimbledon’s men’s singles quarter-finals needed him and how tennis needs Australia to help him find his way in the game. The tournament is more than a little diminished now that he’s gone.

For a country with a love of the laissez-faire, there has been a fair amount of head shaking from the Australians about him. He was asked by one of his compatriots in a press conference on Friday how he felt about the bad reputation he was developing back home. Get stuffed, he replied in so many words.

Only the Australians can tell us if Kyrgios fatigue sets in eventually, but there have been depths to the personality we have seen. His remarkably good grace when an opponent performs – “Yep. Serve,” he offered in the depths of a tie-break in the first round against Diego Schwartzman; “Yep. Good point” and “Yeah, man,” tapping his racket strings in appreciation – deconstructs the notion that it is all bad.

When John McEnroe blew up the way Kyrgios now does he had an outlet: a perceived injustice about the line calls which he railed against. The problem with video technology for a player like Kyrgios, in an age like this, is that there can be nothing to turn the heater on. Protestations about chalk dust cannot exist. The anger turns in on a player and burns a hole in his mind. The job for Tennis Australia is to find a way of making this player focus that sentiment on winning, rather than letting it eat him alive. At present, it’s making him hate tennis, the way that compatriot Pat Cash did before someone put his head straight.

Kyrgios leaves behind the impression that he is more likely to crash and burn than fulfil his reputation as the brightest new prospect. Giving up a game, as he did here, is a long way from the ultra-competitive McEnroe, who could never have brought himself to do that. But tennis is sanitised, serious and safe. It needs personality to broaden its popular appeal. Those qualities can carry brashness and bad behaviour in tow. You can’t switch them off like a light.

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