It certainly speaks to the world’s ability to completely turn over and surprise you that Nick Kyrgios was installed as the favorite to win the U.S. Open after he pretty much paddled Danil Medvedev and Francis Tiafoe overturned Rafael Nadal. This is Nick Kyrgios after all, who never needed more than a Cottonelle-thin excuse to pack up the cats and head on home. Whether it was a hangnail, his own box not becoming the Wolf Pack after every point, someone in the crowd, or just his own indifference, Kyrgios could pull the ripcord with the best of them.
At least before this season that was the case. Then came a re-dedication, and Wimbledon, where he reached his first Grand Slam final. Of course, he capitulated there to Novak Djokovic, screaming at his box the whole way, as the sight of grand success was too much for him to handle.
But the U.S. Open was another chance to exhibit his newfound dedication, with a New York crowd behind him, because his game is that fun to watch. And his conquering of Medvedev might have been the biggest example of the rarely-matched talent he’s always had paired up with the work ethic he never had. As entertaining as that win was, and some of the tennis he played breathtaking, you couldn’t escape the frustration of why it didn’t always look like this, knowing the answer was simply Kyrgios couldn’t be bothered.
Which didn’t match the frustration that Kyrgios shouldn’t have been playing in the Open at all.
You might not know if you watched ESPN’s coverage of the tournament, after all, they have a product to sell more than one to cover, but Kyrgios is facing a court case over an alleged domestic abuse back in Australia. His lawyers have had it delayed twice, and he won’t be in court again until October. Kyrgios has denied the allegations.
The ATP Tour still has no policy on players accused of domestic abuse, which came to light over two years ago when Aleksander Zverev’s ex-girlfriend accused him of abuse (which Zverev denied). Zverev never faced any sort of discipline from the tour, which freed him up to win the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics less than a year later. But Zverev’s case never rose to the level of actual charges and days in court, which Kyrgios’ has.
The ATP wouldn’t be the first sports organization to try to ostrich in the sand when one of its members is accused of domestic abuse, counting on the cheering fans in the stands to wash it away. No matter how much worse those cheering fans make it for any other fan who may be or is connected to survivors of abuse.
Certainly, it would not be out of left field for the ATP or other organizations to suspend a player while there’s an active court case until its conclusion. Perhaps various players’ unions would object, but it’s certainly an awkward position to go to bat for those accused of abuse. Seeing as how many players called for a new policy and suspensions for Zverev, it’s fair to wonder if the rest of the ATP tour would have been fine with Kyrgios being hooked offstage until the conclusion of his court case.
Making a run to the quarters provided ESPN more than enough time to gloss over Kyrgios’ awaiting trial, if they mentioned it all, in comparison to the fawning over his re-dedication to his job. Getting to the rounds when most people watch would have led to a truly ugly and uncomfortable watch, and tennis will basically fade into the background after this week and certainly until after Kyrgios’ court date.
So few abuse claims get to the point of an actual court that this shouldn’t be a massive problem for the ATP (or any sports organization). And providing the adoring crowds and slobbering coverage of the biggest stars is a big reason why they so rarely reach the level of trial. This one should have been a layup for the ATP to stop, but it didn’t. It only added to the problem.
Thankfully, it’s over now.
Call it Kalulu Face
The Champions League returned on Tuesday afternoon, the highest quality soccer on offer during the calendar year. The biggest clubs on the biggest stage, containing the best players in the sport. While the group stage is usually a procession, there’s still the intrigue of seeing best-on-best.
Or if you’re AC Milan’s Pierre Kalulu, it’s the biggest exhibit hall for the world to watch you fall squarely on your ass after getting faked out of your shorts and socks and probably shoes. Go big or go home, kids:
The second replay is the winner, because you can see Kalulu get that face your friend who always falls down when he’s drunk gets, because that friend always falls down in stages. And right about the tip they start to list, their expression tells you they know they’re going down and they can’t do anything to stop it. It’s like their whole face freezes. We’ll call it “The Kalulu” from now on.