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The controversy surrounding Nick Kyrgios

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To put it simply, it’s hasn’t been a good week to be an Australian tennis player. And to make things even worse, reports have been circulating this afternoon that Kokkinakis, one of the innocent parties dragged into the Nick Kyrgios controversy, has been involved in a post match stoush with Ryan Harrison, which started off with the Australian taking exception to a few overrules from the umpire which escalated when the American appeared to reference the controversy which has gripped world headlines.

Kyrgios has already been fined heavily by the ATP and apologized personally and publicly. However, calls have grown louder for a hefty sanction to be imposed on the 20 year-old. These calls are yet to be answered by the governing body but I strongly believe there will be stronger penalties against the dual Grand Slam quarter-finalist. A few years back, another Australian by the name of Brydan Klein was fined exactly the same amount and suspended by the ATP for 6 months for racially abusing an opponent.

Christos Kyrgios, brother of Nick Kyrgios inflamed further tensions between his family and Wawrinka by suggesting that the Swiss would have withdrawn from the next few tournaments if he had been there with his brother in the locker room. In subsequent radio interviews (one which initially saw him kicked off after suggesting Vekic loved the “Kokk”) he persistently defended his brother’s actions by referencing a previous incident between the two players. Clearly he wasn’t going to win the debate by comparing apples and oranges and it just goes to show how immature he is.

The media coverage surrounding the saga has been immense and rightly so because these kind of comments have no place in society.  Innocent parties have been named and defamed and these are things that they’ll have to carry for the rest of their career. Kyrgios has won himself a new legion of critics who are itching to give him a bad name for every unorthodox move he makes. One man who has been quick to defend the Greek Australian is Wally Masur, Australia’s Davis Cup captain. Australia have reached the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time in 10 years and any dent in their armory would be fatal against the team expected to be led by Andy Murray.

But by suggesting that Kyrgios would still be in the mix for Davis Cup selection in September drew the ire of Ray Warren, a respected Rugby League commentator who said that winning Davis Cup was more seemingly important than recognizing misogyny and working towards its eradication. And he is absolutely correct to think that way. Besides it seems more likely than not that the Australian will face further penalties and may not be available for the tie come September. To put the record straight, this has not been a good month for Australian sport, with the Ashes lost and barbs thrown but we can take some pride with the Australian Diamonds netball team who won their third-straight Netball World Cup.

The beauty of the hawk-eye challenge system

About a decade ago, the International Tennis Federation deemed hawk-eye suitable for professional tennis use and we have seen this technology applied to other sports for e.g. cricket and association football. Not unexpectedly, this system does have its critics, most notably Roger Federer. For those that don’t remember, Federer famously asked umpire Carlos Ramos in the Wimbledon 2007 final to have the system turned off after a call that was deemed out was reversed upon Nadal’s challenge.

But hawk-eye does have many positives. Chair umpires have the support of such a system that would help justify the decisions they make on court and in turn, they have become better umpires. It does make me wonder how tennis would of been like if hawk-eye were around during the times of John McEnroe. The crowd reception has generally between positive to the hawk-eye challenge system, which helps them to engage and builds the widely felt suspense during a line call.

Over the years, we have seen many players use hawk-eye to their own advantage along with the occasional controversy. A match that springs to mind is the epic five setter Andy Roddick played against Fernando Gonzalez at the 2010 Australian Open.

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Gonzalez was leading two sets to one with the match clearly going his way until a crucial moment in the fourth set changed everything. The retired Chilean was down set point and stopped mid rally to a Roddick forehand that he judged to be out. Upon Roddick challenging, the ball was judged to be in and the American was awarded the set. Despite Gonzalez’s protests, the umpire made the right decision in that Gonzalez had stopped and then the line judge called out.

Hawk-eye has proven that it does work both ways and you don’t just have to challenge when a ball is called out that you judge to be in. Take for instance, Andy Roddick challenging to fault his serve.

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Roddick didn’t react after Monfils’ return and correctly challenged his serve to be out even though it was called in. Not something that the crowd would expect but its definitely a thrill. Talk has already turned as to whether lines people and umpires are even required with such a system in place. John McEnroe has certainly made it clear that he would like to see such a change as it would broaden tennis appeal. Unfortunately, it is still early days and such a move would be premature and damaging to the game. Umpires are there to restore law and order and to provide a personal view not a biased view as to whether a ball is in or out. I’m all for the status quo and a strong believer that tennis would not be where it is today without hawk-eye.

Juan Martin del Potro: The forgotten man

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At the age of 20, Juan Martin del Potro had the world at his feet. He won his first Grand Slam title at the 2009 US Open, defeating Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the semi-final and final respectively. As of 2015, he remains the last non-European player to win a Grand Slam. He rounded out 2009 with an appearance at the Barclay’s World Tour Finals, making the final before succumbing Nikolay Davydenko. Then the problem of the left wrist set in. But the tall Argentine refused to budge, soldiering on before opting for surgery in mid-2010.

With the problem seemingly fixed, del Potro made a full-time return to tennis in 2011, winning two titles and finishing just outside the top 10 in the year end rankings. 2012 would prove to be another fruitful year for the now 27 year-old, reaching three Grand Slam quarter-finals, winning four titles and taking bronze at the Olympics. Arguably his semi-final against Federer at the Olympics was the best match of 2012 and one of the biggest of his career. A return to the top 10 was inevitable, finishing at No. 7.

In 2013, the Tandil native once again reminded us why he deserved to be in the conversation when discussing potential Grand Slam winners, pushing Djokovic to five sets at Wimbledon. Apart from his performance at SW19, he also captured four ATP World Tour 500 titles and reached the final in Indian Wells and Shanghai. Fast forward to 2014, the problem of the left wrist flared up again forcing del Potro into rehabilitation. There have been cameos in early 2015, but to little success.

Unsurprisingly, talk as turned as to whether he should switch to a one-handed backhand to restrict the use of his left wrist. In my opinion, that is completely absurd because it was his two-handed backhand that makes him the player he is today. His height and left hand gives him the leverage to return high topspin balls which is why he has had success against players like Nadal. What he should be focusing on is healing his left wrist and getting it as strong as possible.

At 27, he is still relatively young and with the likes of Wawrinka winning Grand Slams in his late 20s and early 30s anything is possible. There is no doubt in my mind if del Potro has the will and courage, he will return to the tennis court successfully and reclaim his spot in the top 10. His presence and game play still instills fear in the big 4 tennis players having recorded multiple victories against them in the past. For now in his words “there doesn’t seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel” as his left wrist threatens to completely derail his successful career.

In the spotlight: Elias Ymer

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Over the past 50 years, the likes of Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Thomas Johansson and Robin Soderling have graced Swedish tennis. However, not since 2011 has Sweden had a top male tennis player in Robin Soderling, who reached two French Open finals and other than Novak Djokovic the only player to beat Rafael Nadal on the Parisian clay. Fast forward to 2015, enter Elias Ymer. The 19 year-old won his first ATP World Tour Challenger title in Italy and recently came through the qualifying rounds of Wimbledon.

The son of Ethiopian immigrants, Ymer is quietly confident that he can restore tennis fortunes in Sweden and embraces the pressure and expectation. He already has a victory over fellow youngster Nick Kyrgios and lauded by David Ferrer as having a “brilliant future ahead.” Coached by former Spanish professional, Galo Blanco who was previously affiliated with Milos Raonic, Ymer is in good hands. Additionally, he is also part of Magnus Norman’s tennis academy, a former World No. 2 and respected tennis player himself.

The World No. 133, lists Americans Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson as his idols and looks to their killer instinct every time he walks out onto the tennis court. The likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have started to take notice and even invited him to their training sessions. Along with the likes of Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, Tiafoe and Coric, Ymer will definitely be a household name for years to come. Swedish tennis is still in the doldrums, but they are quietly optimistic that they will have to no longer turn to semi-retired players to fill their ranks.

Bold gamble pays off for Australia in Davis Cup

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For the first time since 1939, Australia has come back from a 2-0 deficit to record a stunning victory over Kazakhstan in the Davis Cup quarter-finals. Hewitt, now ranked 279 in the world wasn’t initially slated to take part in the singles, but when things seemed dire, Wally Masur had no choice but to turn to the aging veteran. And he repaid his faith with a straight sets victory over Nedovyesov. It was no doubt a risky decision to substitute Hewitt, someone who had only won one match on tour this year. Sam Groth’s appearance was expected, having reached a career high No. 66 this year following a fruitful grass court season.

Luckily for Masur, the move paid off and Australia is through to the semi-finals for the first time since 2006. The real losers here are the “Special Ks” who were initially entrusted with singles duty but had that quickly taken away from them with poor attitude and a failure to adapt to the quicker grass courts. Great Britain now looms as their next opponent who of course has current World No. 3 Andy Murray. There is no doubt in my mind that that tie to be played in September is certainly winnable for Australia with James Ward and their doubles combination as their weak link.

But first, Tennis Australia must reconcile with Bernard Tomic and fast. His absence was felt in this tie, and it wouldn’t have gone down to the wire if he wasn’t banned. His Davis Cup record speaks for itself, with 14 wins and just two losses. Nick Kyrgios is also a concern, with controversy plaguing him and mentally he doesn’t seem there. His match against Nedovyesov was below par and his downfall was mainly because he couldn’t find the breakthrough at the latter moments of each set. Kokkinakis endured a similar experience, unable to find his rhythm and range against an experienced player in Kukushkin.

Fortunately for Hewitt and Australia, life goes on as they seek a first Davis Cup title since 2003.

Nick Kyrgios: A polarizing figure

Nick Kyrgios has played 50 tennis matches in his professional career, and has already made Grand Slam quarter-finals at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Along with Bernard Tomic, he is widely considered to be Australia’s next tennis hope. At 6ft 4 in, he is flamboyant, employs an aggressive style of tennis and is an avid social media user. At the age of 20, he has already bested two the greatest players of the 21st century, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Some love him, some loathe him. Many spectators have longed for characters and personalities and Kyrgios definitely fits that bill.

His performance at this year’s Championships were good but not spectacular. After beating Raonic in the third round, I’m sure he would be disappointed not to have gone on further. Unfortunately for the Australian, it was his on court and off court antics that caught the headlines.

Rd 1: Kyrgios def. Schwartzman

Kyrgios has it easy enough, winning in straight sets but not without controversy. Escaped sanctions for yelling “dirty scum” later clarifying that it was directed at himself. Also threatened to stop playing after it was discovered a shot that was initially called out was in fact in.

Rd 2: Kyrgios def. Monaco

The 20 year-old shines with his exuberant shot making to dismiss former World No. 10 Juan Monaco in straight sets. Gets reported by a lines person for swearing, retaliates with sarcasm and questions the central umpire as to whether “he felt strong up there” after giving him the cold shoulder.

Rd 3: Kyrgios def. Raonic

Receives a code violation for bouncing a racquet, and boy wasn’t he lucky that a spectator caught that otherwise that would of been an automatic disqualification. And how could we forget, the Wimbledon headband. After being warned it was against the rules, he turned it inside out.

In the middle of all this, he even managed to have a run in with Wimbledon officials off court for scaling a fence in order to watch Hewitt/Kokkinakis in the doubles. But that’s not all, in his next round against Richard Gasquet, Kyrgios took even a darker turn.

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There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he didn’t try during that game. Even though he attempted to press his case that he did “move”, he was already looking to the other side of his end of the court by the time that serve had come down. Not something you want to see in a professional sport. Tanking is probably not the right word in this case but more of frustration. Kyrgios’ efforts in the third and fourth sets were admirable, and the fact that he held two set points in the final set indicates that the ability is there.

But that’s not all, even after the tournament, the Australian was still making headlines. This time he became entangled in the Tomic family feud with Tennis Australia by siding with his friend and blasting Rafter’s mantra of opportunity not entitlement. He even drew the ire of one of Australia’s most respected Olympians, Dawn Fraser even though she probably went too far with her comments. On a more positive note, what Rod Laver said afterwards is something that been mentioned by so many others but so true. At end of the day, you are judged by the matches that you win not the way that you conduct yourself. Nick Kyrgios, I hope you’re listening before its too late.

It doesn’t get any better than this

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Wimbledon has just about come and gone and once again, Djokovic and Federer find themselves at the opposite sides of the net as they play for the grand prize. It is virtually impossible to pick a winner at this stage, even though the odds have Djokovic as the slight favourite. For the first time in his career, the Serbian has reached the final of the first three Grand Slams of the year, dropping only two sets on route to the final.

On the other hand, Federer produced a scintillating performance on Friday to beat local hope Andy Murray in straight sets. The Swiss is through to his 10th Wimbledon final and hoping to erase the pain of last year with an eighth title, steering clear of Renshaw and Sampras. Leading up to Wimbledon, the 33-year old won the Gerry Weber Open for a record eighth time, becoming only the third player to win the same tournament that number of times.

Few would know how Djokovic would rebound from such a crushing defeat to Stan Wawrinka just weeks earlier at the French Open but he is mentally resilient and has demonstrated that he can overcome them. Nevertheless, 2015 has been a very fruitful season for Djokovic, with titles in Australia, Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome. Only two other players apart from Wawrinka have had his measure this year, Ivo Karlovic and Federer.

The key for Federer in this match would be to do exactly what he did to Murray in the semi-final, keep the rallies short, serve big and be aggressive. But of course that is easier said than done because Djokovic doesn’t have a weak second serve and enjoys offense more than defense. Long drawn out rallies will only favour his opponent and before he knows it, he’ll be down two sets to love and serving to stay in it.

Regardless of Federer’s performance, Djokovic is going to have to play at a very high level if he is to capture his third title at the Championships. Despite being the heavy favourite going into last years final, Djokovic bucked at various stages, most noticeably in the fourth set, enabling Federer to send it into a decider. The things that are going for him are that he is the younger of the two, the more superior on the back of the court and the one in form.

Prediction: Federer d. Djokovic in four sets