Nick Kyrgios, the analyst? King Kyrgios: the player who has faced criticism and psychological analysis more than any other on the ATP Tour today; known as the “divisive tennis star” and whose career has been shaped by his clashes with the media and other top 10 players. The villain, the rebel, the ungrateful one, the spoiled kid. The idea of him setting aside a decade of conflict to take on the role of a tennis analyst seems unlikely. Yet here he is, sitting on the Tennis Channel set, relaxed with his hands in his pockets, joking and laughing with Brett Haber and Jim Courier like a seasoned media pro. He’s dressed in a dark jacket and a lilac T-shirt. His commentary is delivered with confidence and expertise. He effortlessly engages in panel discussions, knowing when to speak up and when to listen, much like a skilled baseliner. And his hair looks great. It turns out that Kyrgios is just as lively and opinionated on set as he is on the court. Nick Kyrgios, the analyst: why not?
Novak Djokovic is a prominent figure in the world of tennis and is often a topic of discussion among fans. Personally, I am a fan of his. While he can be somewhat unpleasant on the court (like many other top players), and his remarks towards other players can be hurtful, I find him captivating to watch. He is not afraid to voice his opinions, unlike many of his peers. Additionally, he is a self-coached player, making him an astute observer of the game. Above all, he has a remarkable talent for hitting a tiny, brightly-colored ball on a tennis court.
Kyrgios has faced setbacks due to injuries in his knee and wrist, limiting his playing time this year. However, in 2022, he surprised everyone with his outstanding performance and proved that his potential for success is still very much present. He impressed with a strong start against Djokovic in the Wimbledon final and showed off his finesse in defeating Daniil Medvedev at Flushing Meadows. Once known for his flashy style and trick shots, Kyrgios has now developed into a well-rounded player. His dominance on the court is not just from his powerful serve, but also from the diverse range of moves he executes with ease, such as the split step, drop volley, slap forehand, and backhand bunt. He is the only player on tour who can make simple shots look exceptional. And in 2022, he even managed to turn a seemingly basic dink into an offensive weapon. Kyrgios’s success in the latter part of his career can be attributed not only to his technical skills, but also to his strong character. However, this forceful personality can also be a double-edged sword, as he often struggles with his emotions and inner turmoil. In a way, he can be compared to Caravaggio in the world of tennis – a master of shadows, unleashing powerful strikes on the court while constantly battling his inner demons. Kyrgios’s intelligence and boldness are not just abstract qualities, but can be seen in the way he carries himself, with a hunched walk that exudes confidence and a sense of a million untapped perspectives waiting to be unleashed.
In theory, he would be the perfect person to appear on set and provide commentary for matches. However, I still had some concerns about Kyrgios taking on the role as a pundit, especially on the Tennis Channel. This network has a pretentious and exclusive atmosphere, which does not seem like a good match for Kyrgios and his nonchalant attitude and sarcastic charm. I was mistaken to doubt him.
Kyrgios was recently added to the commentary team for the ATP Finals in Turin and has impressed with his sharp wit and support for players who play aggressively. In Wednesday’s match between Medvedev and Zverev, Kyrgios favored Zverev, while in Thursday’s match between Sinner and Rune, he supported Sinner for his aggressive playing style on fast courts. Zverev ended up losing and Sinner won, making for a balanced start to Kyrgios’s commentary career.
Surprisingly, the man known as “the human highlights reel” by the Tennis Channel has also provided filler commentary, adding excitement during quiet moments with phrases like “Here we go, two break points for Zverev” and “He needs some first serves here.” He has also incorporated player lingo, using terms like “short replies” for short returns and encouraging Rune to “finish the set off with good habits” after the Dane was toweled off in the first set against Sinner. He even had a comical mistake, accidentally asking viewers to “look at people that have had sex against Medvedev” before quickly correcting himself to say “success.” Furthermore, he has shown his ability to come up with creative ways to describe a good shot, which is a major part of commentary. For example, when Sinner hit a superb lunging cross-court backhand, he exclaimed, “Incredible. Ridiculous. How. Question marks.”
The most enlightening aspect has been Kyrgios’ insight into his own strategy when facing top players. It has been revealed that Kyrgios is able to read Medvedev’s serve due to the Russian’s tendency to throw the ball to the right too often. Kyrgios also admitted to purposely deceiving opponents with his ball toss in order to keep them guessing. Surprisingly, he does not warm up before matches and has even coached a young player, Rune, for six months after being contacted through social media. When asked if he prefers to be loved or genuine, Kyrgios immediately responded with “genuine.” He has no issue with being seen as the villain and has even relished in the moments when the entire crowd is against him. He believes that the negative energy drives him to perform at his best.
Kyrgios has been known for his honesty this year, as he has faced many challenges. Despite being in rehab for most of the season due to injuries, he has still remained in the news. He admitted to pushing his ex-girlfriend, but the assault charge was dismissed in February. He later publicly apologized for his actions. In May, he helped police in Canberra catch a man who stole his mother’s Tesla at gunpoint. During the summer, he opened up about his struggles with drinking and self-harm, even sharing that he had contemplated suicide after losing to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2019. He spoke candidly about seeking help and being in a psych ward in London. This honesty and vulnerability sets him apart from other athletes who are often media trained to be robotic and controlled.
Kyrgios has a complicated relationship with the Australian media and tennis establishment. This is partly due to his disregard for authority, but also because he does not fit the traditional image of a “good boy” in Australian tennis. Unlike past tennis stars like Lew Hoad, Pat Rafter, and Lleyton Hewitt, Kyrgios is a Greek-Malaysian from Canberra who is a huge fan of the Boston Celtics. He is known for his on-court antics and love for his mother. As a child, my Greek-Cypriot grandmother used to refer to anyone acting silly as “Karagiozis”, and I see similarities between that folkloric clown and Kyrgios in his desire to provoke and entertain. America may be the only country that fully embraces Kyrgios for who he is, as evidenced by his recent appearance on set where he casually talked about his beloved Celtics.
During Kyrgios’s recent time speaking publicly, he made an announcement that he intends to retire within the next one or two years. He mentioned this while watching the Sinner-Rune match and also mentioned seeking advice from Djokovic about staying fit for a longer period of time. This is not a new idea, as Kyrgios has previously mentioned his plans to retire after turning 30 in an Instagram Q&A session last year. He expressed his desire to relax and do nothing at his house in the Bahamas once retired.
During the time when the top three players dominated tennis, it was common for players to continue playing well into their middle age. However, before Roger Federer, most top players would retire around the age of 30. For example, Björn Borg retired at 26, Marat Safin’s career suffered after he turned 29, and Pete Sampras retired at 32. If Nick Kyrgios were to retire after turning 30, it would be a return to the usual pattern of tennis players. However, for fans of the sport, it would be a disappointment. His commentary skills are impressive, but nothing can match his skills as a player – a volatile master of the court. Without Kyrgios, tennis will become more polite, tasteful, and graceful, but also less captivating.