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Nearly headless Nick: ATP's wet-lettuce approach helps nobody

Nick Kyrgios is the Australian Australians love to hate-love. (AFP / Greg Baker)
Roar Guru
30th October, 2016
14

The Nick Kyrgios saga gets curiouser and curiouser as the days go by.

On 17th October, the ATP suspended Nick for eight weeks for his unprofessional behaviour at the Shanghai Open (and presumably for previously un-reprimanded conduct at various tournaments over the past several months), with the proviso that it would be reduced if he accepted help from a sports psychologist.

On the same day a Tennis Australia spokesperson said: “We have spoken to his management and Nick has agreed to seek the help of a sports psychologist and will now be available to play in the Hopman Cup in early January.”

Next day, 18th October, Nick, who, along with his tantrum throwing American counterpart Donald, are together helping keep Twitter afloat, participated in a Twitter Q and A – When asked if he intended to meet with a psychologist, he replied: “Probs not.”

That threw some spadefuls of mud at TA who had just about finished washing their hands and faces to take off the previous spadeful of Kyrgios-branded manure sent by DHL from Shanghai.

But he may just have been listening to someone sensible for once (one can always fantasise right?) for sports psychologist Jeff Bond, who managed Pat Cash’s head at one point, opined thus:

“I’m an optimist but the thing that worries me now is that he’s had both arms twisted up behind his back to actually consult with somebody. And that’s obviously not the right motivation to want to do that.

“If it was me, I’d want to look him right in the eye and ask him: ‘Why are you doing this? Are you doing this because you have to or because you really want to?’”

His advice to Nick was “Don’t take the easy way out and reduce your suspension to three weeks.”

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And then we had radio silence on this issue for two weeks, when presumably TA and ATP were running around trying to find Nick, who was trying to find the missing Pokemon.

We are now told, four weeks after the eight-week ban started, that the ban has been reduced, as Nick has agreed to see a psychologist. We shall have the privilege of watching Nick perform in about a week.

This time TA clearly did not want to go the soap and water route again and let the ATP do the announcing.

“Nick has taken up the care plan on offer to him from the ATP. The details and contents of the plan are strictly confidential,” the ATP said.

So we have a 21-year-old who has clear mental issues to sort out, forced to go on a crash course of head management, clearly against his wishes, and against the advice of top sports psychologists.

Nick Kyrgios celebrates

For it’s not only Jeff Bond.

Multiple sports psychologists have gone on record to say you cannot push someone who is mentally not at his best, to seek help telling them their livelihood is at stake, and then let them continue at their job before the state of mental health is any better. And no one who has seen how disturbed Nick is presently can believe a one to two-week session can make any difference whatsoever.

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This is not how you help people in need, as ATP and TA are purporting to be doing here.

But this is certainly how you minimise the financial impact on your sport from the absence of one of its best talents.

Let’s face it.

Tennis is currently seriously short of stars and characters.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are struggling with injury and arguably past their prime.

Novak Djokovic has dramatically lost his self belief and is desperate to get back to where he was a few months ago.

Andy Murray is the beneficiary of these struggles but is forever fighting mental battles with himself, and a little demon that pops up before his eyes every few days to make him doubt that he has the skill and determination to get to the top and stay there.

Nick Kyrgios is ATP’s best bet to continue the money spinning juggernaut tennis has become. There is too much at stake to keep him out of the courts for long.

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After all, a Pokemon Go-playing, coach-less, mentally-unpredictable, Twitterati who can steadily go up the world rankings while all the time professing publicly how he hates the game, is far more useful in front of the camera than on a couch on Harley Street.