It hasn’t been a bad Wimbledon to this point. Just not a particularly electrifying one.
Emma Raducanu was only here for a few days. Serena Williams could only manage a few hours. Roger Federer showed up for 15 minutes and in a suit.
Iga Swiatek was bundled out early and the relentless quality of Messrs. Djokovic and Nadal is such that you don’t feel much need to pay attention to them before the final.
So many ranked players have been tipped over by relative nobodies that one of them, 12th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, fully flipped out in her news conference afterward.
“She got lucky,” Ostapenko grumbled, before explaining how she’d actually won a match she lost.
But no problem, because there is Nick Kyrgios. He may not be the person you want driving by when you blow a flat on a lonely country road, but he is a reason to turn on the TV on a weekday morning.
Thanks to everyone’s best efforts – especially the people who don’t like him – Wimbledon 2022 has become The Nick Kyrgios Show.
Kyrgios understands what so many other pros don’t – that being successful today isn’t about quality. It’s about content.
The content doesn’t need to be good or bad. All that content needs to do is grab your attention and be constant. This is the new ABC of sales – Always Be Creating.
Kyrgios gets it. Even when he’s quiet, he’s loud.
After beating Brandon Nakashima in five sets, Kyrgios said he’d tanked the fourth in order to rope-a-dope the American. He used that term – “rope-a-dope.” Even Ali was careful not to overuse it in public.
Coming and going from the court, he wore a red ballcap and red runners, which is a dress-code violation. When a British journalist took a sustained run at him about it – “Are you above the rules?” – Kyrgios shrugged him off: “Any publicity is good publicity.”
Within 24 hours, he was testing his own rule. News leaked out of Australia that Kyrgios faces a domestic-violence charge brought by a former girlfriend.
They only play every second day, but for the fourth day running, Kyrgios was the biggest story going.
While cameras perp-walked him back to the dressing room after practice, Kyrgios said only one thing: “I feel like I’m in [Netflix’s Michael Jordan documentary] The Last Dance.”
Which he sort of is. His may not be the most savoury storyline in Wimbledon history, but he’s getting close to becoming the most compelling.
On Wednesday, Kyrgios got the perfect opening act – two solemn hours of Elena Rybakina vs. Alja Tomljanovic. After that snoozer, Kyrgios showed up and the crowd reacted like he was Ozzy Osbourne holding up a couple of live bats.
Last time out, after the shocker against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kyrgios was contained. But despite his media troubles, he was back to his chatty worst on Wednesday. The running dialogue began almost immediately. The muttering and real-time commentary is most frustrating because while it contains recognizable words, you can’t actually follow it. Opponent Christian Garin would only say afterward: “I didn’t see anything weird.”
Well, that depends on what you consider ‘weird.’ If Federer talked to himself the way Kyrgios does, they’d have turned his mid-match ramblings into a book of slam poetry.
Up two sets to none, Kyrgios began an out-loud rant to himself during a break about the all-white dress code.
“Where is the line??” he shouted to no one and everyone.
You or I start shouting to ourselves at work and they call security. This guy does it and the broadcasters debate whether it’s a new kind of meditation.
Kyrgios won easily, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5).
You could tell he’d thought hard about how he would be during the immediate aftermath (Always Be Creating). He stared off into the distance. He sat and rubbed his face as though he might cry. He was misty during his on-court comments.
“I thought my ship had sailed,” Kyrgios said. “I didn’t go about things great at the beginning of my career.”
At the beginning??
Right after Kyrgios won, a small, revealing thing happened. Raducanu, the golden girl of British tennis, tweeted three characters: ‘NK’ followed by a magic wand emoji.
If there is a group of people who would like to see Kyrgios sidelined as a public figure, that’s not going to be a tennis-led movement. Evidently, he has important friends. Raducanu just put the arm of protection around him. Even Kyrgios seemed to understand that when he was asked about it afterward.
“If she loves watching my tennis, that’s great,” Kyrgios said. Like all great storytellers, he does take his liberties with other people’s stories, doesn’t he?
As for his big showdown with the media over his criminal charge, that didn’t amount to much. Questions on that topic were batted aside with the old ‘on the advice of counsel’ excuse.
Then he said a semi-final on Friday against Rafael Nadal “would probably be the most-watched match of all time.”
Annoyingly, he might be right.
After Nadal won an absolute epic against Taylor Fritz, there was the usual interviewer love-in for the difficult-to-get-hold-of Spaniard. The crowd applauded politely throughout.
Then the announcer told Nadal something he was the last man at the All England Club to find out – that he would be playing Kyrgios in Friday’s semi.
“Oooooooooh,” said the crowd, like a bunch of grade-schoolers who’d just heard a dirty word.
Nobody ever ‘oooooh-ed’ over the mention of Federer or Novak Djokovic. Which is not to say Kyrgios is their equal as a player, but that he is their superior in terms of making a story happen where no story existed before. I’m not sure it’s a skill, but it is an ability.
Nadal, Federer et al – those are tennis’s heroes. Having finally recognized that he can never be one of them, Kyrgios has decided to become tennis’s Voldemort.