Over the years, Nick Kyrgios has often divided opinions over his unorthodox style on the tennis court. Many pundits have also oft dismissed Kyrgios’s antics as being ‘bad for tennis’. The post-pandemic world has cooked up a lot of surprises- and now Netflix is ready to release a tennis series that will likely propel the sport into the stratosphere. The series involves Nick Kyrgios for an entire episode- and this itself has divided opinions amongst tennis puritans.
A simple glance at the metrics however is enough of an answer as to why Nick Kyrgios has been heavily marketed in the tennis series. In the last 5 years, besides match highlights at the US Open, almost no other player has featured on ESPN’s highlights. The rare exception to this was Djokovic’s default situation and Kyrgios’s own incident in Cincinnati (2019). A vast portion of those views came from casual fans who were interested in the spectacle of the incident. While this incident might not be a great representation of tennis, it is undeniable that drama sells. In this economy, unfortunately, any publicity seems to be good publicity. On top of this, most casual fans would not be able to name a single Masters 1000 tournament. Most of the general public also would not be able to name a few top 10 players in 2022. Contrast this to Formula 1- where names like Carlos Sainz and Danny Ricciardo can be recognised by non-sports fans who simply watched ‘Drive to survive’.
You only have to look at the popularity of someone like Daniel Ricciardo to notice just how important that Netflix show was for the marketability of Formula 1. After the show began to air, an entirely new demographic began to follow Formula 1- non-sporting fans. This particular demographic traditionally never used to watch sports- but now can’t seem to get enough of Formula 1. It is also worth mentioning just how many of these new Formula 1 fans are women. This is quite a hard demographic to sell to- and the Formula 1 has done a freakishly good job of marketing the sport to this particular audience. This is the audience that the new Netflix series, ‘Break Point‘, is looking to cut into. Ultimately, Nick Kyrgios will reel in a bunch of brand new fans to tennis. This can only be a good thing- even if those fans are not tuning in to the round of 32 of the Los Cabos Open.
Moreover, the difference in engagement between tennis and Formula 1 is astounding. Tennis is truly a sleeping giant, a beast ready to be awoken. Tennis, by default, already reaches a bigger audience than Formula 1. Almost no neighbourhoods have a racetrack. However, almost every municipality, in every major city in the world, has a tennis court. Billions of people have likely played with a tennis ball growing up. Whether it is just having a hit against a wall- or playing a game of fetch with a pet, the symbol of tennis is already present in almost every household on the planet.
Now, back to the topic of Kyrgios. While some of the things he used to do on the tennis court are hard to excuse- is it also time for tennis to stop being so soft on issues such as trash talk and underarm serves? Is it time to chalk up these acts by Nick as purely theatrical? In almost every sport, trash-talking is almost embedded into the fabric of competition. All of these tactics are implemented to get under the skin of the opponent. Fortunately, tennis is moving away from golf-claps- and moving towards normal sporting customs.
Ironically, despite Nick Kyrgios’s standing amongst tennis purists, the talented Australian may very well become the most conspicuous men’s tennis player amongst casual fans- post-big 3. In terms of emotions, Kyrgios has often been described as the modern-day John McEnroe. Kyrgios is also one of the only players outside of the top 10 who you would pick to beat the big 3 in a match. To boot- he is only the 5th player born after the 1990s to have taken a set off the big 3 in a grand slam final.
So, all in all, do you think that Nick Kyrgios is good or bad for tennis?