So Nick Kyrgios lost a tennis match.
Meanwhile, Australia’s sporting public has lost its mind.
Kyrgios lost a strange match against Andreas Seppi in the 2nd round of the Australian Open. After being two sets up, Kyrgios appeared lethargic and disinterested (if you believe the commentary box) while dropping the 3rd and 4th sets… before a rollercoaster 5th set that ended at 10-8 to the Italian.
And Kyrgios was booed off the court.
Let that last part sink in.
A 21-year-old Australian, playing at the Australian Open, who had just lost a five-set match that took over three hours, going 10-8 in the 5th set… was booed off the court?
At the post-match press conference, Kyrgios said he’d been in pain, accepted that his preparation hadn’t been professional-calibre, acknowledged how that impacts his support crew, accepted his own role in being underprepared, paid sincere respect to his opponent, and said he was disappointed with the loss.
He said he was looking forward to hopefully playing Davis Cup, held back on criticising the crowd (which would have been justified, because booing him was utterly disgraceful) and he mostly held back on John McEnroe’s ridiculous pot-shot from the commentary box.
Because according to McEnroe, Nick wasn’t trying and was apparently the first human to ever show signs of fatigue, injury, or lose after leading two set to nil.
Nick said he was disappointed, but that “I lost one match” and “the world keeps spinning.”
That is literally the best and healthiest attitude a 21-year-old can have to losing a tennis match.
It seems, however, that many wanted Nick inconsolably crying in the locker-room, curled in the foetal position, dismayed at having let down his beloved nation.
Those people have learned nothing from the lessons of Ian Thorpe, a boy we collectively hounded from the moment he won Olympic Gold to the point that he began to hate his chosen sport and his mental health suffered tremendously.
Young, talented sportspeople absolutely should have some perspective about the games they play. Nick seems to, anyway. He’s probably going to watch his beloved Boston Celtics today more than he’ll watch tape of his loss last night. Good, I say.
Nick is a talented tennis player, but there is no rule that says he has to be sociopathically dedicated to tennis.
If I was Nick I would rather have a solid 10-year career, win a few tournaments, maybe a Grand Slam (but maybe not) and maintain good mental health, a broad range of interests, a close-knit friendship group. The alternative, an exceptionally successful career, usually has a price to pay in terms of mental health, family, friends, and time.
Don’t kid yourself about the Djokovics and Federers of the world. They’re exceptionally successful, but they’ve paid a price too. Andre Agassi famously hates tennis, and hated it while he was playing as well.
If Nick doesn’t want to pay that price, if Nick doesn’t want to lose friends and family connections and grow to hate the game, that should be fine.
But for the Australian public, this makes Nick a “flog” which is the insult-du-jour.
The Australian sporting public are annoyed that Nick doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve like Lleyton, he doesn’t play the boy-next-door role like Rafter… they say he is wasting his talent and unfortunately, for some, Nick isn’t true blue enough.
Nick’s different. He has some immaturities that should iron out in years to come. I’m not a fan of his past bad behaviour towards umpires or when he crossed the line versus Wawrinka.
But if Nick wants to have a solid 10-year career without destroying himself physically and mentally to reach #1 in the world, that’s OK.
It has to be OK.
Unfortunately for Nick, the Australian Sporting Public Groupthink has made up its mind, and he is a “flog.”
If I was Nick, I’d get the word tattooed on my chest and bring out a line of Nike Flog tennis shoes. Own it. They’re not going to allow him to be himself. The Australian public want him to the Hewitt 2.0 or Rafter 2.0 and refuse to allow him to have a personality.
So be the Flog, Nick, and have a cracking career.
Or don’t. Your life mate, not ours.