Men's tennis popularity would benefit from the excitement of a new bad boy, but Nick Kyrgios is not yet the man for the job. Kyrgios is too crude, over the top and just not good enough yet to be forgiven by the fans for being a tortured genius.
Kyrgios trash-talked Stan Wawrinka during an ATP Canada Master's match, making a lewd suggestion about Wawrinka's girlfriend. Kyrgios' attack was vulgar and difficult to comprehend since Wawrinka is a gentleman on the court, much like his countryman and all-time great tennis ambassador, Roger Federer.
Still, some tennis drama would draw the attention of the adrenaline-seeking “Average Joe.” Sure, the "Bad Boys" of the golden years of tennis popularity, such as Ilie "Nasty" Nastase, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe were rude, abrasive and obnoxious, but rarely were they actively aggressive to their opponents. Even then, it was mostly aggression toward each other! They created a buzz and intense interest in tennis that has not been matched since. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are three of the best players of all-time and three of the greatest role models that tennis has ever known. While real tennis fans appreciate them, the most casual fan gets disappointing little thrill from their non-confrontational behavior.
While fans loved to hate Nastase, Connors and McEnroe, all three became beloved favorites late in their careers.
Nick Kyrgios is going to be heavily fined and suspended. He had better clean up his act to continue to have a career.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.