Tennis

The battle raging inside me

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The battle raging inside me

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I am not the professional tennis needs me to be.

 

That’s the truth.

 

Being home is the only time I get to lead a normal life. It’s the place where I can spend time with my family, play Call Of Duty with my mates, be a kid like everyone else.

 

It’s also the time where tennis expects me to be training, going to the gym and trying to improve the mental side of my game. I’m not making the improvements I should because I don’t want it enough, I’m not taking it seriously enough.

 

I know that and there’s no point trying to convince anyone otherwise.

 

There is a constant tug-of-war between the competitor within me wanting to win, win, win and the human in me wanting to live a normal life with my family away from the public glare.

 

 

DEATH AND THE TOUR

The time when this really came to a head was when my grandmother, Julianah Foster, passed away two years ago. I didn’t get to spend the time with her I wanted to and tennis was the reason for that. It kept me away from her. It’s something that still gnaws away at me.

 

If I’m honest, I’d say I haven’t committed to tennis the way the game needs me to since she died.

 

Nanna was basically my mother for five or so years while my mum was working fulltime as a software engineer and traveling back between our home in Canberra and her offices in Sydney and Melbourne. We were incredibly close. We spent hours and hours and hours together. We even slept in the same bunkbed.

 

There’ll never be another person like my Nanna. I remember when Mum bought her an orange car because she was doing so much driving ferrying Christos, Halimah and me around Canberra. Nanna wanted to give it her own touch, so she went to the arts and craft shop and painted flowers all over it.

 

When we weren’t in the hippie car, Nanna used to drive us around in a little red four-door Suzuki. The last time we drove together she ran up a pole. James Frawley, who I hit with and is one of my good mates, was in the car and told Mum he wouldn’t drive with us again. He called her ‘Nanna’ too. All my mates did. It was all pretty funny.

 

If I’m honest, I’d say I haven’t committed to tennis the way the game needs me to since she died.

 

She smoked a lot and Mum hated that. Nanna would be puffing away in the car or in the Lyneham Tennis Centre, reading her Woman’s Day and Woman’s Weekly magazines while I trained. I kept Nanna’s little secret until very recently. I told mum that Nanna used to smoke all the time and let’s just say she wasn’t particularly happy about it.

 

After she passed away, my brother and I visited a friend in Canberra, George from Armani Art, to get ‘74’ tattoos, which was her age when she died. Mum and Dad don’t like tattoos so we kept it to ourselves (Mum found out when someone posted it on social media). It still hurts every time I look at it. I remember all the good times, the great times, but then I think about how much I miss her and the pain is still there, very raw and real.

 

That’s when you realise tennis is not very important in the scheme of things. It’s just a game. We hit a ball over the net. When I was first on tour I thought it was unbelievable, it was such a good life, I really enjoyed it. When my grandfather passed away recently, I pulled out of a few tournaments. I needed to be home. I love being home and being normal more than anything.

 

 

 

THE FIRE WITHIN

But don’t get me wrong. I love to win. Whether it’s chess, or Call Of Duty or tennis, I hate losing and I get angry – as you might have picked up! – when I feel like I’m not performing to my potential.

 

When I’m in the right frame of mind, I feel unbeatable. That period this year where I beat Novak Djokovic a couple of times in a row in Acapulco and Indian Wells? Yep. Unbeatable.

 

I felt like a lot of people thought the first win over Novak in Acapulco was a fluke. I knew it wasn’t and was really motivated to show that. As fate had it, I played him again a week and a half later in Indian Wells and won in straight sets. When I’m in that frame of mind – when motivation levels are high – I feel like I can beat anyone who steps out on the court.  The match is on my racquet and the ultimate result is up to me.

 

It was the same story playing against Rafa Nadal in Cincinnati. It’s easy to get up for a match like that. Big name opponent. Centre court. Huge challenge. I love that. It’s against the lower ranked guys on the back courts where I can’t get it together and tank. Obviously, my grand slam season has been terrible. I meant what I said straight after losing to John Millman in New York. Maybe it’s time for Sebastian Grosjean to work with someone more dedicated than me. I don’t know…

 

When I’m in the right frame of mind, I feel unbeatable. That period this year where I beat Novak Djokovic a couple of times in a row in Acapulco and Indian Wells? Yep. Unbeatable.

 

It all comes down to my motivation levels. And one of the things that impacts that is the media and how I feel I’m being portrayed in it. Wimbledon this year was a case in point. I entered the tournament with a hip injury that, sooner rather than later, is going to require surgery.

 

But that wasn’t how the story went down in the media. Apparently, I didn’t care and showed disrespect. And then I had the temerity to go clubbing afterwards and it was like a crime had been committed. I mean, who hasn’t gone clubbing in their lives?

 

So, the same writers who loved me when I was beating Djokovic were now belting me for losing while playing injured? OK. Whatever. If that’s what you really believe, I’m not going to try and talk you around. More on this later…

 

 

 

BERNIE TOMIC IS A CONTRADICTION

You’d also be wrong if you tried to lump me in the same category as Bernard Tomic, as Kitty Chiller and tons of others have over time.

 

Bernie has lost his way. We were pretty good mates when I was younger. I obviously didn’t know the tennis tour too well back then and we were guys of similar age, representing the same country, on the road at many of the same tournaments.

 

But a lot has changed since then. He needs to figure out what he wants to do. I can’t relate to anything he says anymore. He says one thing and he does the other. And he contradicts himself all the time.

 

He says tennis doesn’t make him happy, that he doesn’t really like the game, yet he says the only thing that will really make him happy is winning a grand slam. It doesn’t make sense at all.

 

I can honestly say winning a grand slam would not make me the happiest person on earth. As I wrote previously, I just love being a normal guy and having enough money to live a normal life. I don’t need the excess money at all. We’re a lot different.

 

 

THE MEDIA AND ME

I am a very private person. I don’t like people knowing things about me and being all up in my business. I naturally have a bit of a chip on my shoulder, so I don’t like it when people are saying things that aren’t true about me. I completely hate having a completely public life. I really don’t like it at all.

 

I have read over time that I am arrogant, disrespectful and tennis is my be-all-and-end-all. None of this is even close to the truth and anyone who has spent time with me would tell you the same.

 

I find this stuff harder to deal with as time goes on. When I first started on the tour, I didn’t expect to get any media. Now, with a bit of perspective and context, I see it for what it really is. And I don’t like it at all.

 

The senior guys on tour don’t know what it’s like growing up in the age of social media. It’s a big thing. I can’t really do anything without a camera being there or without someone saying something about it.

 

And then I had the temerity to go clubbing afterwards and it was like a crime had been committed. I mean, who hasn’t gone clubbing in their lives?

 

I played mixed basketball in Canberra for like five minutes a few months ago and it was reported in the media, supposedly, because I had pulled out of Atlanta due to my hip injury. The reports suggested I was playing a full-on basketball game when, in reality, I was mucking around with my friends for a couple of minutes. I mean, come on.

 

After my recent tournament in Washington I had a big heart-to-heart with Mum on this subject. I told her that I didn’t feel like I had really done anything wrong and hadn’t considered there’d be cameras on me at 3am. She told it to me straight, as she always does. She said that it’s not in our nature to be mean to people, even if they are mean to us. And she told me to be aware that there will always be people trying to make money off my name – like the people who sold the post-Wimbledon video to the newspapers – and that I had to rise above it. Of course, she’s right. But it isn’t always easy to take the high road when you feel like you’ve been wronged.

 

 

 

KIDS AND THE FUTURE

There is plenty I want to achieve in life. I get asked quite often about what the future holds, which always seems a bit strange when you’re only 22 and have a tennis career, a family life and many other things in front of you. There are things I need to focus on right now, like getting my hip and arm strong and getting back on that same trajectory I was on at the start of 2017.

 

But one motivating thought I have is to earn enough money to build a centre for kids who are homeless, having problems at home or don’t have the financial means to play sport.

 

They could come over and play on the basketball courts, the tennis courts, swimming pool and live there. I would love to do that, have a couple of kids and support my wife in whatever it is she wants to do.

 

One of the most satisfying things I’ve done is building a little shelter at the Lyneham Tennis Centre in tribute to be Nanna, right where she used to smoke her cigarettes and read her Woman’s Day. That, I am learning, is what life is all about.

 

Nick Kyrgios  -  Founding Contributor

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