Chaos is Nick Kyrgios’ Ladder

min read
Australia's Nick Kyrgios returns to Brandon Nakashima of the US in a men's singles fourth round match on day eight of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Monday, July 4, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Jul 12, 2022, 2:22 PM

The BetMGM online sportsbook has officially opened the Wimbledon odds market for 2023. Unsurprisingly, Novak Djokovic is the odds-on favorite to win a fifth straight championship in London at +100.

Matteo Berrettini (+700), Rafael Nadal (+750) and Daniil Medvedev (+800) are the closest favorites in the opening field.

This year’s finalist, Nick Kyrgios, opens at +2200. 

Kyrgios is who I want to talk about today, though I’m admittedly disinterested in his tennis odds for any particular tournament. So instead, I just want to ruminate on Kyrgios, who looms large in the aftermath of his Wimbledon run as a unique persona in the sport.

As anyone who tuned in to one of his matches over the last week could likely tell you, Kyrgios plays a very different brand of tennis than the rest of the world. 

Tennis is beloved by millions for its genteel, chivalric code of conduct. That contrasts violently with Kyrgios, who plays tennis an awful lot like he plays pickup hoops. He’s loud. He’s brash. He talks. He tries to get in your head. And he backs it all up with supreme, near-unparalleled athleticism.

Watching Kyrgios in a press conference, where he shines as more authentic than virtually any other player on the men’s tour, crystallizes a few things. 

One major thing is that much of his behavior is intentional. 

Consider the infamous Tsitsipas match that captured the sports world’s attention 10 days ago. Much of Kyrgios’ antics after the first set appear specifically designed to subvert Tsitsipas. Tennis is a heavily mental game, and hundreds of players lose matches yearly because they get off the court and into their own head.

Once Tsitsipas was getting point deductions and intentionally forfeiting points to smash balls at Kyrgios’ body, it was a wrap. The mind games had been effective. Kyrgios said as much after the match in his press conference.

One huge life lesson I’ve learned from studying online sports betting is that there is often value in zagging. Kyrgios is the great zagger of professional tennis. The culture of the sport says to behave in a reserved, traditional manner. 

Kyrgios – love him or hate him – is anything but. He’s a tempest in a tea kettle. He’s a real-life Littlefinger. He sews chaos, and then he reaps its fruit.

But the thing about chaos is that it’s… well, chaotic. So once Kyrgios decides to unleash his full self on the court, I’m not sure he can fully control it.

This approach might be a net positive against guys like Tsitsipas, who are merely great tour players. Predictably, though, it didn’t do much against an S-Tier elite guy like Djokovic. If anything, in a match like Sunday, it’s just distracting Kyrgios from focusing on the only thing that can beat a player like Djokovic: flawless tennis.

In his post-match press conference, Kyrgios repeatedly mentioned how even-keeled he felt Djokovic looked throughout their championship match.

“He’s just really composed,” Kyrgios said. “It’s weird. I felt like he didn’t do anything amazing today. He returned, obviously, the way he returns. He’s a great returner. But he was just so composed. That’s what I was thinking to myself. In big moments, it felt like he was just never rattled. I feel like that’s his greatest strength. He just never looks rattled.”

Because Kyrgios is a guy who deploys more than just a monster serve to beat people, it makes perfect sense that he would key in on Djokovic’s mental fortitude. 

Mind games and trash talk will always be effective against a certain brand of tennis player. They’ll win some new fans and alienate others.

But if Kyrgios wants to get to the mountaintop at Wimbledon before his career is over, he needs to have the discipline to drop the histrionics and just focus on the tennis.

The anger and noise might create energy to feed off of, but it also keeps his mind off the court. So to win the last match of the draw, he’ll need to borrow some of Djokovic’s placid perspective.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.