It could be said that Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios divides opinions like few before him.
Blessed with sublime talent and a temperament that is undeniably mesmerising on court, last year’s Wimbledon singles finalist is arguably one of the most naturally gifted the game has ever seen.
Yet his outbursts on court, arguments with match officials and constant bickering with his coaches and support staff leads some to suggest that Kyrgios has a negative impact on the game.
View from a coach
The Aussie is expected to be back on court soon after knee surgery ruled him out of last month’s Australian Open, and in the opinion of his former coach Josh Eagle, Kyrgios is a character who brings so much more to the game than anyone else.
“He is a unique customer in so many ways and it became pretty clear that I wasn’t the type of coach who could help him,” said Eagle, speaking exclusively to All Court Tennis Club.
“Despite that, it was still great working with him because sitting court-side, you always felt he was going to win. He has so much firepower and can beat anyone.
“It was short and sweet with Nick but getting up close and personal with him was a memorable experience.
“Is he good for the game? Nick gets people talking about tennis and that’s never a bad thing.”
A former player
Former British No.1 Annabel Croft was an outspoken critic of Kyrgios for many years, but her opinion has thawed after his run to last year’s Wimbledon final.
“He is smiling, messing around, joking with the crowd and it strikes me as the behaviour of someone who doesn’t particularly care about what he’s doing,” Croft told Tennis365.
“It might also be that he’s got too much money to take the game seriously at this stage.
“He doesn’t need it enough. Maybe he got too much too soon and can’t really handle it.
💥 Nearly hitting a ball kid with racquet
🎬 Dragging Hollywood star Ben Stiller into arguments
😤 Snapping at the crowd
It's never a quiet match of tennis when Nick Kyrgios is involved 😬 pic.twitter.com/LnN7tu4Jfr
— Eurosport (@eurosport) March 18, 2022
“What I would say is the player we saw at Wimbledon last summer was a different Kyrgios by the end of the tournament.
“It’s been enjoyable watching Kyrgios achieve what we always thought he could, and I could see with my kids that they were excited watching him.
“It felt like he got rid of a lot of demons last summer and when he unleashes the talent he has, it’s frightening.”
A tennis legend on Kyrgios
Tennis legend John McEnroe goes further than Croft in his praise of Kyrgios, suggesting his Laver Cup teammate is as naturally gifted as any major player in the game over the last two decades.
“Kyrgios has so much talent, but it was all about making use of it,” said McEnroe, speaking at a Eurosport event.
“I had Nick on my team for the Laver Cup and he was different. During his match with Tomas Berdych he told me his knee was bothering him.
“I told him he needed to warm it up a little, but when I asked him if he did so later on, he said no.
“Then we start the next match, and he hits his first two serves at 140mph; sitting down after to tell me his shoulder hurts.
“Maybe don’t hit the first serve of the match so hard I thought!
“But that’s Nick. That’s what you are dealing with and why he is so interesting and great to watch.
“I also remember that he was a great team player and that’s a quality some people might not expect from him.
“Of course, he’s good for the game. If everyone was a robot and played the same, the sport would be dull, so tennis needs Nick.”
Kyrgios is hoping to make his return to the game at next month’s Indian Wells event, and as ever, tennis fans will be eagle-eyed to see how this compelling personality performs on the world stage.