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Nick Kyrgios has talent to go right to top if he can curb his excesses

By Paul Newman

Published 19/10/2016

Troubled: Nick Kyrgios has had run-ins with officialdom. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Troubled: Nick Kyrgios has had run-ins with officialdom. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Nick Kyrgios has a long way to go before his achievements can be compared with those of John McEnroe and Andre Agassi, who transformed themselves from tennis brats into Grand Slam champions and role models, but for the sake of his sport it should be hoped that such comparisons will one day be valid.

In their early days McEnroe and Agassi could be just as volatile as Kyrgios, who has been fined $41,500 (about £34,000) and effectively suspended for the rest of the season by the Association of Tennis Professionals, which runs the men's tour.

The 21-year-old Australian "tanked" a match at last week's Shanghai Masters, verbally abused a spectator and was unrepentant afterwards, saying he did not owe fans anything and "couldn't care less" about qualifying for the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

At a time when the golden era of the sport's "Big Four" might be heading towards a close, Kyrgios is one of the few players capable of sustaining the current level of interest in men's tennis.

By next summer Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will all be thirty-somethings. Tennis needs new heroes.

There are plenty of talented young players around - including Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric and Kyle Edmund - but none generate as much interest as Kyrgios.

While the others do not behave as badly, it is equally true that none have quite the same explosive capacity to entertain. With his edgy clothes and hair-cut, Kyrgios also clearly appeals to a younger audience.

In full flow Kyrgios is a sight to behold. He can crack outrageous winners from almost anywhere and is a wonderful improviser, as he showed with his half-volley between-the-legs winner from behind the baseline in his victory over Nadal at Wimbledon two years ago.

If Kyrgios has yet to prove he has what it takes to win a Grand Slam title, that might be because in the more physical modern game, champions are not as young as they used to be. By the time they were Kyrgios' age, McEnroe had won two Grand Slam singles titles and Agassi had appeared in three finals.

While Kyrgios has never gone beyond the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam, he has a much better record at that level than all his contemporaries. Twelve of his 14 Grand Slam defeats have been to top-20 opponents. This year he has won his first three titles on the tour, including the Japan Open earlier this month, which took him to No.14 in the world.

Mentally and emotionally, however, Kyrgios continues to appear disappointingly immature. Nevertheless, Chris Kermode, the head man at the ATP, believes that Kyrgios cares much more than he sometimes lets on.

Kermode spoke to him in Shanghai after the incident and says the Australian was "distraught", knowing that he had been in the wrong.

"I think the strain of being in the spotlight occasionally gets too much for him," Kermode said.

Kyrgios can cut his eight-week suspension to three weeks, provided he "enters a plan of care under the direction of a sports psychologist".

Belfast Telegraph

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