Tennis legend Roger Federer wasn’t his usual self as he bowed out of the Shanghai Masters quarter-finals.
Our Nick has done it again.
Two weeks ago I was well on the way to leaving behind all my reservations and once again becoming a Nick Kyrgios fan.
I told myself it’s been a year since Shanghai 2016.
A year since Nick started to change ends even before his opponent’s serve had landed.
A year since he got banned for throwing a match.
A year since he got fined and suspended and vilified and in all contriteness (and perhaps because he was told that’s the only way he could continue playing on the circuit) saw a psychiatrist.
Nick is a changed man.
He doesn’t tell umpires what kind of calisthenics they should indulge in beyond the tennis courts (Fognini does that now).
He has been playing unbelievable tennis and almost took out Roger Federer in the Laver Cup and seemed to be finally truly enjoying the sport.
He played tennis like I have been waiting to see from the next generation for the past few years, on his way to the runners-up position at the China Open.
I had started the move past the centre to the right of the ‘Hate-Love Continuum’.
My wife warned me against the danger.
She said not to fall into the trap his mind-numbing talent lays for me every few months.
She pointed out the signs when in the finals of the China Open glimpses of the Old Nick began to emerge on court.
She said he would betray my trust, again. I told her the quality of linesmen in the tournament was abysmal so he is entitled to a little angst.
Wives are always right. I should have listened to her.
Last night when I came back home, Nick had just walked out of a Shanghai Open match.
It was not a replay of 2016. This was 2017.
This was last night. He had even raised the bar on amazing behaviour by telling his team “If I lose this set I am going home.”
And he did.
In a very dignified manner he called his bemused opponent Steve Johnson to the net, shook his hand, walked up to the umpire, shook his hand, packed up his kit and walked out of the court.
Last night my wife said nothing, but her look said all – “You old doddering sentimental fool. I told you so.”
Lying awake last night long after she had gone to sleep, I had a thought. Surely Nick was more to be pitied than censured? He clearly cannot help himself, just like Donald Duck who flies into uncontrollable temper tantrums. Do we love Donald (the Duck not the Trump….not the Trump!) any less for this? So why should we treat Nick any differently?
That set off another chain of thought.
Which angry cartoon character does Nick actually most closely resemble? If we determined that, maybe we could finally find a way to love him. As quietly as I could I left the room (followed dutifully by my curious canine daughter wondering what daddy was up to at this time of night) and switched on my laptop to ask Uncle Google about angry cartoon characters and their psychology.
In the deep darkness of the night, the results were illuminating.
I first looked at Yosemite Sam.
He is clearly a danger to himself and to others. This little gun slinging cowboy hates all bunnies, but particularly Bugs Bunny.
This hatred and thirst for vengeance clouds everything that he does. His creator Freleng compacted into a tiny body and 11-gallon hat the largest voice and the largest ego “north, south, east, aaaaand west of the Pecos”.
But Yosemite Sam (or ‘Sam the Pirate’ as the French call him) fails the ‘Kyrgios test’ on a couple of counts. The tiny body doesn’t quite do it for me given Nick’s size. Moreover Sam is quick to learn from his mistake and doesn’t fall for the same ploy twice.
Even his most ardent fan will admit that this particular quality is noticeably absent among the other stellar parameters that goes into the making of Nick Kyrgios. So Yosemite Sam doesn’t make the cut.
I then turned my attention to Squidward Quincy Tentacles. The internet tells me (I confess to not being on intimate terms with this member of the marine family) – “This arrogant, prideful octopus/squid character frequently considers himself of high status.”
Quick to blame others for his shortcomings, Squidward has a difficult time accepting any responsibility. In fact, if he’s not blaming people, he’s insulting them. One of his catchphrases is, “If I had a dollar for every brain you don’t have, I’d have one dollar.”
Squidward spends a lot of time plotting against SpongeBob. His plans often backfire leaving him facing the consequences of his actions.”
Now this sounds far more promising. This sounds like the Nick we know. But hold on – He is grumpy, hot-tempered, selfish, miserable, frustrated, cranky – All boxes ticked. But he is also serious and “lauds cultivated taste and accepted standards.”
Well, that sends us back to the drawing board for sure. That’s not the Nick we know. Sigh.
Surely then the best fit must be the character who started me off on this chain of thought and kept me awake – Donald Duck? He is kind, caring and loyal (all the things Nick’s friends swear he is) but he also flies into fits of rage (which the fan who faced his ire at the 2016 Shanghai Open can testify to).
Donald’s fans even say what the hard core Nick fans echo – his reactions are so over the top that it is hard not to fall in love with him. On the whole that doesn’t sound like a bad fit, but let us reserve judgement until we have looked at the whole field of contenders for this exclusive honour.
Given his size (ok I admit all these Nextgen players who came out of their mother’s wombs measuring 6 feet 6 inches give me a serious inferiority complex) it might be worth considering the Incredible Hulk for this honour, I say to myself. After all, the Incredible Hulk often verbalizes a warning to his victims, just like Nick. He tells them,
“Don’t make me angry. You woudn’t like me when I’m angry.” Sure enough, they do (make him angry) and they don’t (like him when he is angry).
But the Hulk doesn’t make the cut either. He has a quality that Nick doesn’t, for the Hulk can channelize his anger and transform it into something that is powerful. He shows us that not all anger is bad. Nick, sadly doesn’t.
I know Nick is from Canberra, but when I find my final angry cartoon character, I think I may finally be on to something. I like the sound of Taz the Tasmanian Devil. I like him even more when I read a description of this little devil – “This ill-tempered ferocious little devil is notoriously known for his lack of patience and short fuse. Frequently spinning out of control, he is very destructive and rarely communicates. Taz sets the bar high in illustrating how anger can be a destructive force of nature.”
This sounds very promising indeed. Wikipedia tells that “He is best known for his speech consisting mostly of grunts, growls, and rasps (in his earlier appearances, he does speak English with primitive grammar) as well as his ability to spin like a vortex (similar in appearance to a tornado) and bite through nearly anything. He is constantly ravenously hungry.”
In Shanghai last night, after Nick made his dignified (if abrupt) exit, he tweeted to his fans that a stomach bug had not allowed him to eat for the past 24 hours so he could not play. So maybe its hunger then that drives him mad? I can believe that.
The resemblance to Nick grows stronger when I realize that Edward Selzer, the head of Warner Brothers had asked the studio to shelve Taz as “he was too violent for children, and parents would dislike him”. Tick the box Nick.
Then Warner saved Taz’s career by telling Selzer that the studio was receiving ‘Boxes and boxes’ of letters from people who liked the character and wanted to see more of him.” Tick the box again Nick.
Nick clearly has a parallel in the world of angry cartoon characters – it is the Tasmanian Devil. He is talented, he is loved, he is angry, he is out of control. But had anyone found a way to tame Taz and channel his energy so that his talent prevails?
Indeed they had! In 1954, Warner Brothers figured it out. Or rather, Bugs Bunny did it for them in the most logical manner possible. He matched up Taz with an equally insatiable and volatile female Devil who would be the perfect counterbalance – ‘Mrs Tasmanian Devil.’
At 5am in the morning (Olu my canine daughter fast asleep by my feet), I finally sat back relieved. I had found a way to assure tennis its future and provide the erstwhile Princess of Selangor a potential grandchild in the fullness of time (In 2001 they came up with Infant Taz).
Now which of you Roarers will bell the cat and find Mrs Taz… I mean Mrs Kyrgios?