Nick Kyrgios is the bold bad boy in a sport where it’s frowned upon for fans to make noises during play. Tremble as you realize that this youngster, well ... he truly might not give a damn.
The 21-year-old’s brief career has featured a number of highlights that have nothing to do with his skills. He tried to intimidate Stan Wawrinka mid-match by whispering that Wawrinka’s girlfriend had slept with another player; the court mics picked up that barb. He openly discussed how he wants to quit tennis by 27 at the “absolute max,” and would rather play another sport altogether. He gets up to pranks and hijinks with his edgy countryman Bernard Tomic. When wronged, he uses his Trump-quick Twitter reflexes; mostly this is bad, but when the victim’s Piers Morgan, it can be good.
As much as I want to resist the pat stereotype fed to me by the tennis marketing machine, his playing style often suits the advertised version all too perfectly: floaty on his feet, flashy with the touch shots, and lax about ending points. Kyrgios is the infuriatingly natural athlete whose mind drifts towards Pokemon or weed as he roasts you. This was roughly the fate suffered by journeyman Gilles Müller, a man 12 years older than Kyrgios, in their 6-4, 6-2 quarterfinals match at the Japan Open early this morning. Here’s an illustrative, slightly humiliating point:
Kyrgios lobs Müller, then hangs back at the baseline as Müller goes for a tweener. The ball sails right back to him so, from the baseline, staring down a ball that looks headed well out, he opts for a tweener of his own, as if just to say, I can do that, too. When Müller responds, Kyrgios rips a cross-court winner past his tired feet. It’s pitiless and playful, a young cat toying with an old mouse.
Watch him carve up this overhead with about as severe an angle as you can get from that position. It’s a routine putaway, but he does so much more than is actually necessary—for his own aesthetic pleasure, for the audience, who knows. It’s worth watching the actual video to hear the brushing sound the strings make as the ball is spun off:
This guy is twisted.