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Nick Kyrgios and basketball: An unrequited love

Nick Kyrgios' topsy-turvy career continues to surprise. (AAP Image/Mark Dadswell)
Roar Guru
14th February, 2017
22

Nick Kyrgios’ eight-week suspension from the ATP for “perceived lack of effort” after the Shanghai Open last year, was followed immediately by a decision that attracted less attention at the time.

But now that decision has come to roost.

Kyrgios called up Richard Krajicek, former player and the tournament director of the Rotterdam Open (which started recently) in October last year, and informed him he would be pulling out of the tournament because he would rather play an NBA All-star celebrity basketball tournament.

Krajicek at the time said: “Kyrgios prefers his passion beyond his profession. We wanted to hold him to his contract. You see what can happen when he is tired and [tennis] has little meaning, as in China. We do not want that. So we decided to terminate his contract. We want a top tennis player seen on the court.”

That statement about Kyrgios preferring his passion beyond his profession is clearly an important one.

In an interview that Kyrgios gave to The Independent in 2015, he said: “I don’t really like the sport of tennis that much. I don’t love it.”

Later saying, “I just love basketball, I love the sport. I always have. I try when I’m on the road with tennis not to watch too many basketball videos and stuff like that, to keep me focused, but it’s tough.”

On The Roar, we have debated issues like the Nick Kyrgios attitude versus his ability, and the expectations of fans versus a player’s choices ad nauseum. So I won’t even go there.

It is worth thinking more about the personal dilemma many of us undoubtedly face at some point in our lives when we realise that we don’t really love our jobs and would rather be doing something else.

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Do we then throw away what we have in pursuit of what we believe we would rather do?

Sure, the decision becomes a simpler one when you have $3.6 million AUD in prize money and your net worth is over $11 million AUD (as per the latest available estimates), as is the case with 22-year-old Nick.

A simpler decision yes, but is it the right one?

As Kyrgios found out this week, it is easy to fall in love, but that love may not always be reciprocated.

While Kyrgios prepared to travel to New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2017 at the superdome on February 17th, a rude shock awaited him. He wasn’t named in either side.

The game will include the likes of singers Andy Grammer, Kris Wu and Master P, and actors Tom Cavanagh, Jiang Jinfu, Hasan Minhaj and a few others.

But not Nick Kyrgios.

One presumes that Kyrgios had some discussions with ESPN and its anchors – a pair of whom picked the sides – before announcing his withdrawal so many months ahead of the Rotterdam Open, specifically citing his intention to play Basketball in New Orleans.

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We know the best-laid plans often do come unstuck, and something, somewhere, clearly has gone wrong here.

Nick Kyrgios

While Kyrgios’ agent has been strangely silent on the issue (one can readily understand Kyrgios’ personal disappointment and reluctance to come out with an explanation), there can be only one reason for this rude awakening, and that is, the combination of Nick’s basketball skills and star appeal have possibly been found less stellar than he had assumed, by the powers that control selection for this event.

There is clearly a lesson in this for the young man.

Most of us lesser mortals go through life not necessarily doing what we dreamed we would do as kids.

The job we end up doing, is often a result of a concatenation of circumstances. And that is a valuable lesson.

Kyrgios is one of the most prodigiously talented tennis players of his generation, if not the foremost.

He may only like the sport he is so good at, while being in love with a sport that doesn’t appreciate his talent. And this might well be the defining moment in his life when he realizes it.

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While we celebrate the revival of the Nadal-Federer rivalry and wait for Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray to reinvigorate their passion for winning, this fab four will soon leave a huge chasm for the next generation to fill.

Will this be Kyrgios’ eureka moment, when unrequited love brings him to the realisation that his future rests on a tennis court and not a parquet floor?

If it does, it will be a huge moment for the future of tennis.