Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Aussie brat is making McEnroe look a saint

Watching Kyrgios play is as risky as being a blind matador. Photo / AP
Watching Kyrgios play is as risky as being a blind matador. Photo / AP

As much as the All Blacks' continued climb to the summit and the Black Caps' descent to the test pits interest me, Nick Kyrgios' latest implosion was more powerful.

Footage of him tanking a point at the Shanghai Masters provoked an initial reaction mixing scorn with disgust. Spoiled brat, over-indulged, bad image for the game and all that sort of stuff.

Kyrgios is described as a professional tennis player while much about the 14th ranked player in the world screams shoddy and immoral. He was given maximum fines for three offences in his loss to Mischa Zverer yet filled his wallet with the surplus earnings.

Tanking boils my blood. On court-antics from John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase or Jimmy Connors quickly set my constitution to simmer mode but as much as they railed and ranted, they did not give up. Not like the petulant Kyrgios.

The Australian can play and stay with the best and recently won the Japan Open. He's got tennis skills others cannot hope to emulate and a temperament no one wants.

Kyrgios rails about his dislike for tennis which provokes widespread wonder.

He has an entourage of Pokemon-Go-playing buddies and delights in other pursuits which enthrall young teenagers.

We can tut-tut about Kyrgios' on-court antics and his insular interests away from the limelight but he seems to be retreating more as the pressure and his feats improve. While the world seems to be piling the pressure on Kyrgios he finds solace in uncomplicated friends and their interests.

His emotional graph has heavy peaks and troughs, some days he floats through his matches and on others he wants to be somewhere else. Kyrgios does not know which state he will discover because he has a juvenile makeup and is trying to make sense of his reactions.

He's another young sportsman whose development is played out in public rather than the family or private work environment of his peers. He battles with the public inspection and incessant questions about his suitability on tour. He knows he's struggling and feels he shouldn't have to apologise for his dramatic public mood swings.

After his Shanghai exit he voiced those sentiments as he told the audience buying a ticket to watch him came with a raft of risks. He doesn't get the fans' exasperation and doesn't like himself at times while his backers will wince at his antics but are all pointing towards a longer end game.

Watching Kyrgios play is as risky as being a blind matador. He may strike the right zone but he may also get nailed. He's a social experiment outside the lab.

We don't know what he is going through, we can see the welling up of exasperated anger as he prowls the court but we don't know the reasons. We are drawn to watch his talent and his frustration. Some days it's gold, others manure but it's always theatre.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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