To anyone that keeps an eye on the affairs of Australia’s tennis players, the lightning fast rise of Nick Kyrgios is not really a surprise.
The 19-year old stormed through Wimbledon to reach the quarter-finals, defeating world number 1 Rafael Nadal along the way, before going down to Milos Raonic.
On the other side of the fence, Australian sports fans have already proclaimed their new saviour with the Canberran to take over Lleyton Hewitt’s role of pulling Australia out of the tennis doldrums in the future. Particularly impressive to ‘them’ is his attitude, which Kyrgios has been praised for by many former and current professionals as being ahead of his years.
They much prefer him to our false prophet from just three years ago, Bernard Tomic.
Although it is early days, Kyrgios appears to have done more than just win for himself as his compatriot now just may have woken up to himself and realised the undeniable talent he is wasting away outside the top 100.
Last week, Tomic won his second ATP title and his first off home soil when he defeated Ivo Karlovic in the final of the Claro Open in Colombia. While it isn’t enough to push him back into the elite bracket of men’s tennis and guarantee him a spot in the US Open, it certainly is a step in the right direction.
Tomic had not won consecutive matches since prior to his retirement during the first round of the Australian Open against the man Kyrgios famously defeated. During that time he missed Australia’s Davis Cup tie due to injury, where they were smashed in France, and when he returned he set a record, but this wasn’t a good one.
Tomic lost his match at the Miami Open to Jarko Nieminen in just 28 minutes and 20 seconds. This gave him the dubious honour of being involved in the shortest recorded professional tennis match in the Open era.
Imagine how his Dad would’ve reacted.
Even more interesting about his win, believe it or not, is his choice of headwear for the awards ceremony. A traditional Colombian sombrero was just one of the ‘trophies’ he received, and he decided to don it straight away, along with a big, bright smile.
Is this a personality shining through? It’s fair to say the Australian public hasn’t felt many positive vibes from Tomic and his camp since he burst onto the scene at the 2009 Australian Open.
Accusations of tanking and a lack of effort in matches, daddy issues, hooning, more daddy issues and photos of Tomic being a ‘toolie’ emerging throughout his short career certainly hasn’t done him any favours with his actual achievements also being minimal as well.
Like Kyrgios, Tomic stunned the tennis world to make the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2011 and backed it up with a fourth round exit at Melbourne Park in 2012. Suddenly he was Australia’s new number 1 male tennis player, but it was obvious he wasn’t mature enough to handle the pressure that comes with the title.
In matches against top 50 players he often refused to step up and display the skill that everyone knew he had, regularly allowing his opponent to outclass him.
This is the biggest difference between Kyrgios and Tomic; the former shows genuine fight out on the court and appears to be a much more consistent performer. This is the essence of tennis and what the Australian public want from their international sporting stars.
Sure, a certain player may not be the best but at least they ‘had a crack’. Tomic is/was a player with immense talent and if he thinks that talent alone will win him things, he’s not thinking clearly.
Every once in a while he’d upset a big name in a meaningless tournament, such as Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Hopman Cup, and the Australian tennis public would wonder if he had finally come of age. He backed that particular win up with his first ATP title in Sydney before he collapsed against Federer in the second round of the Australian Open in straight sets.
But maybe, just maybe he has now changed. With rumours that his management group IMG dumped him (flatly denied by his father) and the rise of another hot shot in Kyrgios, maybe he has finally realised his wrongs.
Whether you like him or hate him, it is for the good of the sport in this country that such a talented individual can realise his potential and reach the pinnacle.
And for a country with some of the best tennis facilities in the world to still be in the Davis Cup wilderness, it is truly a dishonour to the champions that have put their names on the line for pride in the past.
Hopefully Tomic can continue his good form and help Australia become one of the big names in world tennis once more.
I know I’ll be cheering for him.