In the normal world, tennis fans would’ve been preparing for the start of the 2020 French Open this week.
Channel Seven is copping a barrage of criticism for choosing to show the match between Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Jordan Thompson instead of new world No.1 Ash Barty on Tuesday night.
The decision was vindicated, however, by the scorelines of the respective matches. Barty dispatched her little-known opponent Zheng Saisai 6-4 6-2, while the match between the two similarly ranked men who’ve known each other since childhood went five tense sets, with both playing exhilarating tennis and showing ample emotion.
Simply, sport is entertainment, and there is no doubt which match was the better spectacle.
It has been spoken about as a gender issue. When WTA and ATP events are played separately, the ATP draws more ticket sales and TV viewers.
How many people would attend or tune in to a women’s only Wimbledon tournament? Because critics don’t put their money where their mouth is on the struggling WTA Tour.
In this specific case, Kyrgios is the most interesting and enigmatic player ever seen on a tennis court, at least in the last quarter of a century.
The men’s game has become inundated with defensive tennis, stock standard answers in press conferences, passive aggressiveness between rivals and players who meekly submit to the big three.
Kyrgios is a subversion of all of those elements.
Simply put, a match where Kyrgios is dialed in – as he was for four sets yesterday – is more interesting than any first-week match at a Grand Slam, on either the men’s or women’s side of the draw.
When Kyrgios is hitting booming forehands, chatting casually to the crowd in between aces, showboating and gesticulating, it almost feels like a different sport compared to the other matches in the tournament.
Ash Barty is a fine player with beautiful court craft, but her blockbuster matches will likely come later in the tournament.