Forget Serena's social justice virtue-signaling, Nick Kyrgios is the tennis brat the world needs
From trips to the pub the night before a Grand Slam match to near-the-knuckle on court sledging of opponents’ girlfriends, Kyrgios’ misdemeanor rap sheet is often longer than his tenure in any given Grand Slam, but the entertainment he provides in his brief big court visits is box office.
Tennis’ prodigal son screams everything irritating with the millennial generation: a sneering, racquet-smashing, goateed, gangly strip of Aussie arrogance that even slates his own chosen profession as being “the most boring sport”.
But tennis needs an anti-hero like Kyrgios. Why? Because for too long the sport has settled itself into a comfortable groove of accepting holier-than-thou, virtue-signaling role models dictating to us mere mortals the strict boundaries of political correctness.
The tennis court, a millionaire’s playground for some of the most well-traveled and privileged athletes in the world, is hardly the place to wage a social justice war.
Can anyone really stand Serena Williams’ constant crusade to compensate for our mortal shortcomings any longer? Can we bare another nonsensical retort with accusations of sexism and bizarrely using her daughter as a makeweight, all kindly wrapped up as fighting for 'equality', to preserve our wokeness?
Kyrgios is, at the very least, honest. He doesn’t set out a phoney stall of “living, loving, and working to help you”, and he doesn’t make anyone within five paces a bigot if things don't go his way.
At just 24 and without a Grand Slam to his name, Kyrgios’ reputation nonetheless precedes the kid from Canberra. Back in May, he was disqualified from the Rome Open for lashing a chair onto the court; earlier in August he was fined $167,000 for calling an umpire a “f*cking tool” during the Cincinnati Masters.
Against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, he deliberately hit one of the game’s greatest players with a shot and then refused to apologize, sneering: "the dude has how many slams, how much money in the bank account?"
In the post-match presser for the same match, he was elated to realize her was facing a question from a reporter who'd spent the previous night at local watering hole The Dog & Fox pub, openly admitting he probably hadn't spent enough time in the gym.
Even on Tuesday, in his US Open match with Stevie Johnson, his on court tomfoolery and posturing prompted Johnson to bark an order to “play f*cking tennis”. And play f*cking tennis Kyrgios did, beating his opponent in straight sets.
And therein lies the great contradiction that makes Kyrgios more of an enigma than a petulant rookie: he can provide entertainment through some fantastic tennis rather than bleating about line judges, although both are equally enjoyable.
Kyrgios - like the original 'superbrat' before him and incidentally one of his biggest critics John McEnroe - is a melting pot of unabashed immaturity when things aren’t going his way, ready to blow up at any umpire or inanimate object in the immediate vicinity, but I’d much prefer that to Serena yelling that anyone within five paces is a bigot if they dare to challenge her moral fiber.Also on rt.com “Play f***ing tennis”: Nick Kyrgios shakes off opponent’s jibe to claim win at US Open (VIDEO)
The current world number 30 does have the tendency to push the boundaries of decency - who can forget his comments to Stan Wawrinka that his friend had 'banged' the Swiss' then-girlfriend Donna Vekic - and some might find themselves understandably biting their lip and squirming when that melting pot boils over.
Yet Serena’s witterings look dangerously like a cliched attempt at satire. The 23-time Grand Slam champion, for reasons known only to herself, tried to pass off her infamous US Open final tantrum a year ago after incurring point dedictions enforced by the match umpire as "an example for the next person that has emotions... to be a strong woman."
If we have to endure the occasional uncouth remark from Kyrgios, at least we don’t have to swallow some screeching about an imaginary social justice battle.
Celebrating irresponsible behavior from a top athlete may seem odd, but when presented with such rawness amidst inflated egos, empty platitudes, and the incessant reinforcement of a 'perfect' public image, it is hard not to be at least entertained, and even in awe of, an unforgivingly honest anti-hero.
Danny Armstrong is a British journalist based in Moscow, Russia, who has worked for RT since 2016 as a sports writer, reporter and presenter.