The Thiem vs Kyrgios was epic. I felt old at the end of that, pushing 3:30am here on the American best coast. A little nap around 11:00pm did the trick!
What did not work was the regular ESPN broadcast of the Australian Open. Great to see we have gender equality cutting across multiple platforms (media and political). My complaint with the Tennis Channel back in the day had to do with airing a WTA match while a big ATP contest was taking place, often in the same tournament. Come on, folks. This is common sense. People can watch recordings, etc.
Last night was another good (bad) example, but this from ESPN.
Thiem and Kyrgios are in the first act of their epic where Kyrgios is playing some inspired tennis (actually this is just Nick’s regular game when he’s not completely shit-faced or whatever you want to call his acting-out) and Thiem is clearly struggling. The broadcast switches to Halep vs Kudermetova. WTA/WTF. This was awful tennis. Just terrible. I stayed calm and actually watched, waiting patiently for the return to sanity. What has happened to women’s tennis? Halep, who appears to have played better in the first set (6-1), looked like a weekender down at the rec center. Just bad tennis PLUS there was a very interesting (for some) upset taking place in John Cain Arena.
Nothing new here from me and sorry if I sound sexist. Just shitty, low sport IQ programming. I get it: gender equality is very very important, but I draw the line on this kind of ignorance is bliss bullshit.
Luckily, I had ESPN+ to retreat to, away from this madness. I no longer had brothers McEnroe calling this thriller, but the British/Euro types doing the call on some of these smaller broadcasts can be quite refreshing. On this app I can toggle between different matches; for several minutes, this meant Shapo vs FAA, Thiem vs Kyrgios and eventually Djokovic vs Fritz. Needless to say, I was interested in one match, and only one match (I later watched some of the Djokovic rollercoaster, that exciting attraction we refer to as a-punch-drunk-seriously-injured-tennis-form coming to-a-major-near-you; Djokovic eventually finds his form late and the sport lives happier-ever-after).
Thiem and Kyrgios was almost surreal. Remember, I am a big fan of the Aussie’s court genius. He can tank a match as easily (ok, more easily) as/than he can put on a master class.
I have been a proponent of the ATP coming-down much harder on this guy. Tanking a match is unforgivable. Hammer him with fines and suspension (for any player who loses his composure like that). Fognini comes to mind. Anyone acting like such an asshole on a professional tennis court where people are paying to watch — fuck him. Parent this child. Police this bullshit.
No need for me to pepper links to previous Mcshow commentary on this matter in the previous paragraph. You can find that I am of a healthy hatred for the clown Kyrgios and others who pull that shit.
But last night was no clown Kyrgios (but for a brief flirtation there in the third set). I said this match made me feel old. I will get to that in a minute.
Kyrgios came to play, no doubt. Breaking the Austrian in the first set made that half clear. The other half appeared to involve Thiem’s lack of belief. This is the Thiem I have been most critical of. He needs more of a killer instinct, I am prone to say.
But let’s be clear about that Kyrgios part of this equation. When he’s not fucking around, when he actually wants to compete, which very often coincides with a big match against a top 10 player, he can ascend to some almost untouchable tennis. His serve can remove the racquet from his opponent. This guy’s serve is among the best in the sport over the past several years (even ever) though we only get to see this on rare occasions. Of course this is frustrating. With Thiem drifting deeper behind the baseline to somehow deal with this onslaught, the die was cast on the first chapter of this clash of two careers. The confident Kyrgios, in his home country, on his favorite home court of Melbourne Park, rose to the occasion to inspire his audience with what we all know as a game of incredible yet flawed “variety.”
His 130+mph serve, the out-wide and down-the-T version equally disguised in his toss, is, again, one of the most violent and effective serves in the sport. Add to this description his relatively low toss and quick strike. It’s efficient to say the least. That’s his first serve.
Last night, with Thiem several feet in a-rears behind the BL, Kyrgios employed the under-hand serve. Love this. Such a smart (fuck you) device should be used against these deep bush rangers who practically disappear in the court (Nadal, Medvedev, et al.).
So, just as we hate some of the antics of Kyrgios, we embrace and support some of them, as well. In line with this under-hander against these hide-and-seekers, we have Kyrgios calling-out people on certain issues. See his back-and-forth with Nadal and Djokovic over the years, for instance. The Djoker discourse got refreshed prior to the start of this major tournament, having to do with Djokovic’s comments about quarantine, etc.
Not going to go into this here, but let’s just say that Djokovic, whether what he said was more supportive of his fellow-tour-mate or just him putting his foot in his mouth, says some dumb shit. A guy so good, so dominant, putting together an all-time resume and he’s still not really embraced by many tennis fans? I am not going to defend tennis fans, but how many times do you see Djokovic get upset about the fans rooting for his opponent? The world doesn’t collectively dislike Serbia (eastern Europe). This is more about Djokovic, the person, and do with that whatever you like.
The Kyrgios variety is brilliant, but for the asshole-tanker who really is just that immature kid who needs a hug; I’m afraid that’s it, ya’ll.
At one point, he attempted an under-hand FS, missed, and fired a 139mph SS ace. Ha ha. Remember that a guy like that can take such chances with his tweeners and under-handers, etc. because of that serve. Early in that match he hit a brilliant tweener that just missed CC, but he did so at 40-0. We saw that tweener late in the match, on a much more consequential point that very well could have helped determine the outcome of this match. With Nick, you get this “variety” that some think is arrogant, undisciplined and so forth. I half agree. But without all of the unpredictable game, you jeopardize the genius.
His BH is probably his most dangerous shot. Sure this is more of a block, but his ability to flatten the ball and change direction makes for a very consistent (lower risk) shot. The FH has more spin, involves a longer swing, a riskier, but more offensive shot. Then we have his drop-shot skills to go along with this decent game at the net.
Some allegedly smart tennis folk have called Kyrgios a serve bot (in the mold of an Isner or Karlovic). That’s a swing and a miss, Mr. “tennis expert.”
Kyrgios was rolling in those first two sets. Breaking Thiem early in the 1st and later in the 2nd, to go along with his nearly untouchable serve, put the Australian on the brink of a pretty decent upset. I watched the interplay between Kokkinakis, sitting court-side, and Nick throughout the match. They’re close in age, talent and attitude, both coming-onto the scene at about the same time, as well. Great to see these two back on the court, giving some top 5 players all they can handle. We want more from these two. Let’s go, boys.
As I said, Nick flirted with the bad attitude there in the third set. One of the announcers mentioned, I think correctly, that Nick sometimes looks for the distraction. He had nothing to complain about. He was up 2 sets to 0. But you saw Thiem begin to find a little hope, part of which was simply the format. Domi is a Bo5 warrior. He knows how to sustain and go long. He’s been there many many times. Nick, on the other hand, has not the same kind of experience or temperament for the long, sustained battle. The trick shot-filled variety finds comfort in the tennis exhibition-like Bo3. The Bo5 is a much different genre, more of a war, and Thiem, we know, can tread in those deeper waters, the darker depths of these major championship competitions.
(I’ll finish after I walk my dogs. Thanks for reading.)