I am not what you would call a sports fanatic: in fact, far from it. There are probably only two main sports that I would actively seek to watch individually: swimming and tennis. That is apart from the Aussie spirit that exists around the times of the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. At that time, I might be seen watching an Aussie fly climb a wall, cheering Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi . . .
This book, like the title suggests, is about Nick Kyrgios, an Australian tennis player who has attracted criticism and controversy for his behaviour on and off court. Like many people, I have an opinion on what makes a tennis player. It’s not just being able to serve well, return balls and win matches, but also the persona of the player; what they give to the game and what it says of them. For overseas readers, Nick Kyrgios is often surrounded in controversy on and off the court for one reason or another, but he has also won a few big tournaments, and he has beaten all three of the greats, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. But he has not won a Grand Slam tournament so far.
Given the polarising effect Nick Kyrgios has on opinion, I was interested to read how he was portrayed by the biographer when I saw this book.
The book itself is an easy enough read with short chapters relating to a variety of topics. Not surprisingly, Kyrgios is often compared with other players who are considered great. Much of the book is a series of interviews and commentary from and about Kyrgios. One thing is for certain, there is no in between: most either love or hate him, and this can be seen even from his fellow Australian players of the past and present. Kyrgios often claims he has rarely been supported by Australian players, apart from the moral support offered by Lleyton Hewitt. Kyrgios has no coach. Pat Cash, another great Australian player who won Wimbledon in 1987, has been one of his harshest critics.
The book does not handle these diverse views well. The chapters jump from one topic to another. There seems to me to be no logical progression. The first chapter starts with a look at some of Kyrgios’s Bad Boy tennis antics on court, comparing him with the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Conners and probably the lesser known Illie Nastassie. Kyrgios’s behaviour is more favourably portrayed by making these comparisons. Even so, the book offers some of the great players views of Kyrgios and his play and It is clear that there is much division between their views of his tennis and his associated antics.
Then there is issue of repetition and failure to consider the book as a medium. One of the early chapters concentrates on Kyrgios’s Wimbledon final in 2022. In a later chapter a number of Kyrgios’s best games are narrated, almost like live commentary in no particular order: their highs, lows and results. Each game is given a blow by blow description, but I found it rather tedious. Sitting watching the match is certainly different to reading the summary years later.
Other parts of the book focus on Kyrgios’s negative behaviour on the court: the ranting, the smashing of racquets; as well as off court: his excessive drinking, partying and cursing himself, family, spectators and staff. The book attempts to balance all this against his positives, such as his great play and charity work.
I was interested to see who the author of this book was. When I did a search, I first found a psychologist focussing on mental health. Although I had found the wrong person this doctor initially seemed plausible since much of Kyrgios’s behaviour described on and off the court might be of interest to someone in this field. Then, after searching a little more I found the real author, a sports vlogger and YouTuber, who has also written a book on the AFL star known as ‘Buddy’. Knowing this made more sense of the way the book is set out. Each chapter is like a separate blog written and collected over a period of time, not necessarily with a flow to it as one might traditionally expect. I thought knowing this also helps to account for the fact that there is a lot of repetition – of ideas and quotes – which I found quite frustrating.
Towards the end of the book I found that the last few chapters read almost like a mini Wikipedia of Kyrgios. There is a summary of personal information, a brief history of his tennis career and a useful section to check certain criteria.
Love him or hate him, Kyrgios is certainly a good player when he is focussed and sets his mind to it. However, at the time of the book being written, Kyrgios was likely to start 2023 ranked in the world’s top twenty tennis players. But fast forward only a little over six months and he is set to fall out of the top one hundred as injuries problems take a toll on his performance.
When an interviewer asked him about the prospect of his playing until he was 33 years old – only 5 years from now – Kyrgios said, “No fuckin’ chance . . . that is insane . . . The schedule is out of control. I’m getting old. Twenty-Eight. Yeah. But all the drinking and partying, I’m like fifty seven.”
This book is certainly an insight into the duality of one of the most showman-like tennis players Australia and the world have seen. It has some interesting information and insights into Kyrgios as a person and a player, told through a variety of interviews. But as a cohesive account, I feel it very much lets down the reader.