OPINION | Nick Kyrgios commanding attention at Wimbledon for all the right and wrong reasons

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Nick Kyrgios training at Wimbledon. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)
Nick Kyrgios training at Wimbledon. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

Nick Kyrgios winning Wimbledon would be a gambler's dream and a purist's nightmare, writes Nicolette Lategan.

The curious case of Kyrgios. The timing of an assault charge emanating from Down Under at the zenith of Kyrgios fever over at the lush lawns of Wimbledon is worthy of conspiracy contemplation.

Here's a naughty thought: Imagine the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton handing the Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy to an assault-charged champion... it's almost as bad as the royal having to hand it to a Russian. Or is it? Yes, a very naughty thought. As the BBC commentators would say... 'that's a whole other story,' before briskly moving on.

The spice just keeps coming at this year's lawn tennis Grand Slam when it comes to Nick Kyrgios. He divides the wheat from the chavs, the pious from the unplayable, the bourgeoisie from the baying mob.

It's been a funny old year in tennis, the purest of sports - from an uncomfortable absence of world number ones at Grand Slams in "No-vax" Djokovic, then Daniil Medvedev, a Russian.

To a pointless Wimbledon as far as rankings go. Pointless indeed, with this year's watered down men's draw, the strawberries and cream curdling to the twee serenade of Sir Cliff Richard at the centenary celebration on Sunday. The great champions spanning a hundred years awkwardly shifted their weight from one foot to another. Crickets.

Ah, tradition. The gilded Roger Federer's visit couldn't have come at a better time on Middle Sunday to set our hair straight so soon after Wimbledon descended into existential crisis on Saturday. You know, that clash of the creche tantrums on Court One.

Back to Kyrgios, a triumph for the tournament this year which has been somewhat rudderless. Federerless, if you will. The second week so far has been an exercise in psychoanalysis when it comes to the demon-possessed Australian. What are we to make of this boy in a man's body? Clutch a rosary? Our pearls? Very curious is our Kyrgios. Attention-seeking, frustrating, under-achieving, magnificent Kyrgios. Downright mannerless and a strong candidate for finishing school. His greatest fear, failure.

"I don't care," he would sulkily have you know. But he does. And here is why we're all sitting up, all the way from the royal box to the cheap seats of our living rooms. (Of course, there are no cheap seats at Wimbledon.)

An exceptional mover for his 1.93m frame. A frame perfect for a blazing, bouncing, zinging serve and volley game on grass. And boy can he serve! On a whim, on a second serve. (No, not that irksome donkey-drop.) The flick of the wrist on a whip-cracking forehand. And the deft, almost delicate touch around the net, the magic that happens by seeming fluke off of his often ill-fated racquet. We must add to Kyrgios's arsenal the mind games. Gamesmanship that has us all questioning our lines in the sand. Just ask the ousted fourth-seed, a hot-tempered Greek called Stefanos Tsitsipas. And yet, what is Kyrgios's game. Winging it?

Now is as good a time as any for the 27-year-old to claim a major title. It's a gambler's dream. It's a purist's nightmare. The last time Kyrgios reached a Grand Slam quarter-final was at the Australian Open in 2015. Rafael Nadal, if he wins his last-16 match against the sweet-striking American Taylor Fritz, awaits in the semi-final. Kyrgios, in flesh, bone and heart, is a mockery of everything the Spaniard's career stands for.

It's a good time to mention that Kyrgios has had the better of Nadal, as it happens, in the Wimbledon fourth-round of 2014. The 22-time Grand Slam champion was world No 1 at the time. And if, a big if, Kyrgios should reach the final, it is very likely that a certain Serbian will be the last in a gargantuan gauntlet, if Djokovic prevails against British hope Cameron Norrie. Kyrgios and Djokovic have met only twice before, with the Australian winning both encounters. Here's the thing. Kyrgios can beat anyone... if he puts his mind to it. The man lives for the Seabiscuit effect, the underdog status, the unthinkable glory.

Is this the turn of the tumultuous tide for Kyrgios? Should he overcome Christian Garin in the quarters, the semi-final against Nadal, even if he loses, would give him a glimpse, a taste, of the heights that he could scale. In fact, with his talent, the heights he should be scaling. And this is what terrifies Kyrgios so. Hence the smoke and mirrors, the histrionics, the reprehensible behaviour of spitting and profanity and abuse. Until Kyrgios wins a Grand Slam, that's all it amounts to. Smoke and mirrors. It's time for Kyrgios to back it up, to give credence to the Kyrgios chaos.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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