OK fellas – bring it in. Time for a chat. Time for a few home truths.
This past week has not been great for either of you. Shocking in fact. You might not be aware of this, but there’s now a Tennis Wanker App available for download. Seriously. And guess what? You’re both ranking well. Very well, particularly you Bernie. You’re off the scale – the benchmark, in fact. Now I know neither of you care what anyone thinks, particularly all the nuff nuffs in the public and the media, but just humour me for five minutes. There might just be one sneaky little morsel that you can take away from this rant – and privately, seamlessly, begrudgingly – incorporate into your privileged, yet apparently misunderstood existence.
First of all, understand this – YOU ARE LUCKY. Lucky in the sense that you have been blessed with some rare God-given talent that any sports-loving Australian kid would love to have – would walk 100km over broken coral reef, if it meant a chance to win Wimbledon. And don’t dare shit me with that “we owe our success to hard work” rubbish. You can work hard at making a chocolate cake out of gravel and mud, but it’s never going to win a ribbon at a fete. You have to start with something. So how about a little humility. Just a skerrick. Fake it if you must.
Second point, don’t tell us when you will and won’t represent your country. That’s never been anybody’s “right” – that’s a privilege, regardless of how talented you think you might be. “Represent” – get one of your people to look it up in the dictionary for you – “appointed to act or speak on the behalf of others…” Other Australians. The opportunity comes in the form of an invitation. Bernie – a reminder – yours has been revoked, because you shat from a great height on the people extending those invitations. Pat Rafter, and others from Tennis Australia. We can understand you might have been a little frustrated having just been wiped off the court by Novak – but Rafter – clueless? Really? Did you understanding where he sits in the pecking order? He’s at the other end of the aforementioned Tennis Wanker App. He has a stadium named after him, for God’s sake. You might not like him, but understand who the public will side with, in any war of words. Bernie, it’s not you. You’re pissing on a monument, old mate.
Thirdly – respect. And again, Bernie, this is for your benefit. I don’t think you know how respect works. It’s not something that can be bought in a 10kg bag from the supermarket, or ordered on-line. It doesn’t just magically appear over the back fence. You can’t demand it. Respect is something you EARN. Through your deeds and behaviours and actions. For the past five years, every time you’ve provided us with a reason to respect you – Davis Cup performances for instance – you’ve followed it up in quick succession with two reasons which confirm – in our minds – you’re just an overindulged tosser. A lot of us are still trying hard to like you, I promise we are. We can only imagine what it was like, “growing up” under such “supervisions”. So Bernie – can I suggest, s-l-o-w-d-o-w-n. Lots of little steps. One foot after the other. Set yourself a goal … no wanker comments for say, six months. The one about having to pay for your own court … by crikey … that was a howler. You really need to read Bubble Boys.
Nick – don’t want to alarm you, but at the moment, you’re sitting right on the cusp. Like Bernie, we are trying to find reasons to adore you, to cry tears of green and gold anytime you lose. But mate – you’ve got to give us a bit more to work with. The trick shots, the freakish returns, the playful stuff on the court, all of that’s fantastic … but like Bernie, it’s two steps forward, three steps back. The rubbish you were talking on the eve of the tournament, for instance, about tennis not even being your first love – you’d prefer to be playing basketball. WTF? How do you think that goes down with Tennis Australia – all the time and money they’ve invested in you since you were 12, you ungracious prat? Or the $1.85 million you’ve earned just in prize money, since you were 18. Do you “enjoy” that aspect of tennis?
But just at the point we want to slap you into next week, you walk out on court and beguile us with your skill and agility. You joke around with the ball boy and the bald, 104 year old linesman. Giant steps forward. Then 10 minutes later – on the strength of one contentious call – you threaten to walk off the court. Stop playing until you get your way. I know you’re only 20, but you’re not five. Surprised you didn’t fold your arms, stomp your feet and poke your tongue out as well. In the next match, you say to the umpire … “I suppose you think you’re the big boss, sitting up there in the chair?” Guess what, you muppett? He is! He’s in charge – he has the final say. Please … every now and then, just take a step back – think about what is going to help you get to where you want to go. Belittling umpires in full view of the tennis world – not sure that’s the right road.
A mate of mine said it best. “I love watching Nick Kyrgios play. So talented, so watchable. I just wish he wasn’t Australian. That way I wouldn’t feel compelled to cheer for him.” Sad, but at the moment, more than a little bit true.
And that’s the main reason I’m writing this letter – if not on behalf of a large chunk of the Australian sporting public – then certainly on behalf of most of the people I hang around with. We want to see you guys succeed – really we do. We want you to fulfil your potential – to do your family, your friends, and of course your country proud. Deep down, we know that what you do is not easy – all the “experts”, the pressure, the expectation, the fine line you walk between aggression and boorishness, every time you take the court. We get all that.
But long term, you’ve got to give us something to work with. Don’t just throw us a bone every now and then – cook us up a feast! Feed us, and our urge to feel proud. We might be ravenously hungry, but we are not going to wait forever.
Time, in a sense, is running out. Very soon, we’re going to dump you in that box marked “rubbish”, and slide you over into a dark corner. In our minds, it’s where you’ll stay forever, your legacy only revived when the dinner party or front bar conversation turns to the “if only” men of Australian sport.
If only they didn’t carry on like dickheads. If only they listened and learned – before it was too late.