Sport in 2020 has been, not to put too fine a point on it, weird.
It’s no secret Nick Kyrgios has his ups and downs.
Those who follow his journey often describe it as a rollercoaster: one day you’re taking utter delight in his superb talent and willingness to break the mould, the next you’re watching uncomfortably as he makes half-hearted shots and limps to an ugly loss, seemingly indifferent to the result.
From world-class tennis against the best players in the world to awkward on-court meltdowns, Kyrgios seems to inhabit the bodies of several different tennis players at once.
Over the weekend, it was one of Kyrgios’ less inspiring forms that took to the court for the first round of the Madrid Open and exited in straight sets. Complete with a broken racquet and a warning from the chair umpire, it was just another dip in the rollercoaster.
That’s fine. It’s been said countless times over the years, but Nick Kyrgios doesn’t owe anyone anything. He can have bad games, he can (mostly) say what he likes on social media, and he’s certainly not the first play to draw the ire of umpires. But he’s also not immune to criticism.
One particular tweet caught the young Australian’s eye over the weekend. The tweet referenced the decision by Kyrgios to team up with Tomic as a wildcard entry for the doubles in Madrid and suggested it “takes a place away from a solid doubles team who actually want to play”.
The response from Kyrgios was blunt: “Unfortunately sport is entertainment.”
In the end, it’s just a tweet, but the response struck me as an interesting one. Is the entertainment value of sport always in harmony with the quality of the competition itself? If not, where do we draw the line?
Roar Assistant Editor and tennis tragic Scott Pryde joined us on today’s episode of Game of Codes to debate exactly that, particularly within the context of Nick Kyrgios and the Madrid Open.
Listen to the debate:
Look, Kyrgios has a point. Sport is entertainment. It’s difficult to argue against the fact that big names sell tickets, TV ratings sell sponsorships and personality drives interest. I’m generally a fan of the way he walks to the beat of his own drum, and I can’t pass judgement for any of his form slumps.
But are we meant to believe he suddenly cares about the entertainment value of tennis?
Professional sport is ultimately entertaining because it’s a contest. In it’s most basic form, it’s a chance for athletes to give it their all and prove they are the best at what they do. Tennis players may be entitled to do as they wish on and off the court, but it doesn’t mean fame comes before the sport itself.
Of course, Kyrgios can prove me wrong by showing that he and Tomic are willing to take doubles seriously and compete to the best of their ability. If not, he’s a hypocrite.