Nick Kyrgios is simply box office. The conversation around Kyrgios has always been about whether he is good for the game or not. Love him or loathe him he is not just good for tennis, the personality he brings to the tour is what tennis is in desperate need of.
The average age of a tennis fan is 61. In other words tennis hasn’t been able to refresh it’s fan base from the fans who fell in love with it from the 70’s/80’s watching McEnroe and Borg. What makes this more surprising is that we are coming off the back of watching an era with three of the best players of all time. In what will go down as a golden era for tennis, the sport as a whole failed to captivate the younger audience on a big scale. Many have blamed this on the media almost exclusively promoting the big 3 players and not encouraging the personality of the lower ranked players to shine through.
One of the least interesting yet telling moments in recent tennis history was when Nike didn’t resign Federer. They deemed that it wasn’t worth the investment, sports like basketball and football were seen as bigger and more marketable. It’s hard to argue with that, however I feel like Nike themselves failed to market two of most marketable tennis players ever to the next generation. Federer’s classic sports polo shirt look doesn’t scream 12 year old boy and most of Rafa’s clothing doesn’t look great on pasty, slightly out of shape 12 year old boys (yes I am talking from experience). For me the beat example of this was Federer’s white tracksuit suit and blazer combo he wore to warm up and Collect his trophy during the record breaking Wimbledon final against Nadal. At least Roger has aged better than this outfit.
My slightly long winded point is that Kyrgios brings something a bit different. He’s got the bad boy persona which breaks the Federer/Nadal model professional, squeaky clean mould. He wears clothes that are a bit closer to street wear/what young kids might actually wear. This and his cockiness, the trash talk, his love of rap music, video games, twitter spats with fellow or ex pros all come together to make something a bit different, a player your grandma probably doesn’t like, but that probably makes him cooler.
A Netflix documentary showcasing the tour is being filmed this year. There are big hopes the series will kickstart fandom similar to the impact that the ‘Drive To Survive’ Netflix series had on F1. How tennis and the Netflix documentary showcase players personalities and the tour itself will have a big effect on tennis.
So does tennis need more Kyrgios clones? Probably not, the whole tour could turn into a circus. What Kyrgios has shown though, is that personality can sell tennis as a sport. As tennis is gradually forced to move the spotlight away from the big 3 and onto the other players on the tour it’s going to be important that they can showcase the top 30ish players in the world much better.
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis have made a simply unbelievable run into the final of the Australian Open Men’s Doubles Final. In an on court interview after the quarter finals Kyrgios told the fans - ‘As long as I’m playing this sport and playing in Australia you sure will have a show.’