Please, can we have more? What started out as a curiosity – the doubles pairing of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open- has given a massive jolt of adrenaline to a tournament drifting in the public mindset after the Novak Djokovic debacle.
With football-style chanting coursing through the stands of Kia Arena, and players on both sides losing their shit in a thrilling third set, the Australian Special Ks have suddenly thrust tennis into the consciousness of a new generation.
Sure, the scenes may have been alienating for established, genteel fans, but it is a sport and an event that needed a boost of energy and passion.
Tennis finally gets an atmosphere. Toss them out. https://t.co/QP07NMaMi1
— Tony Harper (@toneharper) January 25, 2022
This is the first tennis match my 22-year-old son has ever sat through and it was a revelation to him (the reality hit home a little later when he tried to go the distance for Ash Barty but couldn’t quite get there, giving up around the same time as Jessica Pegula).
Thrilling, noisy and ecstatic – it was an occasion that tennis provides too little of in a two week slog. An outlier event that clearly deserved to knock Rafa Nadal’s quarterfinal off the main TV channel despite the moaning of the tennis nuffies.
So is this, as someone on the Nine commentary team noted – a tennis revolution, or just a beautiful moment of chaos in a technical and relatively passionless sport?
Australian Channel 9 TV calls the Kyrgios-Kokkinakis quarterfinal doubles win “a revolution in world tennis.”#AusOpen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 25, 2022
Of course, the Special Ks will lose some of their crunch when they step outside their own country and away from the young fans who have been roaring them on in Melbourne.
Kokkinakis exhorting the fans to “sink some piss and come down here” for Thursday’s semifinal final probably won’t translate in foreign cities, but you’d back them to grab hold of the younger generation of fans everywhere.
So the big question is, how long will this wild ride go on – not just in Melbourne but for the rest of the year?
“It’s up to Nick,” said Kokkinakis.
“He’s in high demand. I’m just trying to get him where I can. But hopefully we can. I mean, we have a lot of fun. Depends what schedule he’s playing.
“Hopefully, now that my ranking is going to be better, we can play a lot of the same tournaments. Yeah, I’d love to be on court with him. I don’t think — it’s going to be tough to match this atmosphere here around the world (and) we’re not doubles specialists.
“We don’t think let’s do all these great things in doubles. We just want to have fun play and play together, and hopefully the results will come after that.”
Kyrgios was likewise non committal.
“I don’t know. Obviously whenever I can play,” he said. “With Thanners, I’d love to. You all know that I don’t really play a really tight schedule.
“I’m not sure. Maybe Wimby. Wimbledon is best-of-five sets. I reckon we’d maybe play US Open. That’s the other Grand Slam I can see but I don’t really know.”
If calling their Aus Open double act a tennis revolution is a stretch there is no doubt that Kyrgios is as close to a revolutionary figure as the sport allows.
“I know that over the years I haven’t been the best role model, but I was just learning how to deal with everything,” he said.
“I think now at 26 I have matured, and I’ve definitely realised that a lot of young kids and people, even people that are low on confidence, they do look towards us when we go out there.
“We are not special people. We’re normal humans that you might see walking in Australia, and we are now in the semi-finals of a grand slam.
“In Thanasi’s case and me, we have been around in some dark times.
“I guess tennis has always had personalities, and they have just really struggled to understand that there are different ways to go about it.
“You’ve got Roger Federer and these guys that are just once-in-a-generation athletes, I can’t be like that.”
Kyrgios has made peace with his place in the game, yet it irks traditionalists that he can’t be more like a Roger or a Rafa and rack up titles with clear minded discipline and focus.
But it’s this that makes him captivating – a player out on a limb who jumps up and down eager to see what happens if the bloody thing actually breaks.
He has a connection with those young kids who cheer him on, as a risk taker and a flawed fun loving pleasure seeker.
If, like me, tennis and its vanilla probots leaves you feeling a little ‘meh’, get on board the Special Ks bandwagon on Thursday.