MELBOURNE – Let's go right to a few questions from Day Six at the Aussie Open…..
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Please tell me what to make of Nick Kyrgios. When I am ready to like him, he acts like a jackass. When I am ready to give up on him, he does something incredible and I think he might be a champion. Jon, help me here!
—M. Lewis, Brooklyn
• You, sir—or madam—have perfectly summed up the conundrum of Nick Kyrgios. You see the talent and excitement he generates and the appeal of it all. Then he behaves like a jackass and you fear he is a knucklehead, destined to become Gael Monfils with a shorter temper. And as soon as you start to look elsewhere for a future star, he hits a 125 mph second serve or comes up with a poised match that reminds you he is only 20 years old and still brimming with potential. Once he matures and drops the shtick and sharpens the focus, how can he not rule tennis? The sport begs for players to be colorful. Why look this gift-horse in the gold-plated mouth?
We got all this in miniature during Kyrgios’ third rounder against Tomas Berdych. He stood toe-to-toe with a fearsome Top 10 player. He played to the crowd. And manufactured an absurd controversy. (The notion of Nick Kyrgios complaining about loud music is like Amy Schumer complaining about profane content.) For half an hour, he played as dazzling a set of tennis as you can play. Then he wilted. Just another night.
My solution: we give him a sort of tennis Rumspringa. You’re 20. You’re young. You’re brash. You’re surrounded by enablers. You have an entourage but no coach. Great, spend the next 18 months going nuts. Don't hurt anyone and don't hurt yourself and we'll stick with you. By, say, age 22, you get it together and become an adult. If not, we condemn. Deal?
There was a question in your column about players coming off of a five-setter. Looking at only Grand Slam matches over the last 10 years (2006-15) players coming off of a five-setter who are playing against a player not coming off of a five-setter are 344-542 (.388).
You speculate about players coming off of a big win over a top player. I'd be happy to look into it but I'm wondering if it should be restricted to only players who pull the big upset and are outside of say the top 30? Also, shouldn't we take into account the ranking of the player they face next? Like maybe not include them if they faced a Top 10 player in the next round?
• First let's pause to thank Blake for his help on this and other projects. Like many of you, I love probability and just wish I had more academic grounding here. This is great—I would love to see this controlled for quality of opponent. But it is interesting—if not entirely surprising—that players who win a five-setter are more likely than not to drop the next match.
Do you really think it was warranted to cut Novak Djokovic's tribute to Lleyton Hewitt off from the video played on RLA. I thought it was in bad taste—those additional 20 seconds will make no difference what so ever IMO.
• Deepak is referring to this. “Due to a production error unfortunately the wrong video was shown on the night. Novak’s message was recorded on a different day to the other players so there were a couple of versions made. The full version, which included Novak, went up online last night and we’ve apologised to Novak’s team,” a representative told news.com.au.
Sure, it’s unfortunate that a five-time Aussie Open champ would be omitted from a ceremony honoring an Aussie player. But these things happen. At least they didn’t misspell his name. Oh, wait:
What has happened to my favorite player, Zheng Jie of China? The last time I think she competed in singles was last year's Australian Open. But she competed in the doubles at all the Grand Slams in 2015 except the U.S. Open and made the finals at the Australian Open. This year no sign of her and no news that she has retired.
—Russ Ewald, Los Angeles
• From the WTA: “I got the update from our Beijing office and Player relations team and Zheng Jie has not retired yet but is taking some time off to focus on her tennis business and work with the next generation of Chinese players.”
Per WTA website: Lauren Davis, 5'2", 121 lbs. Maria Sharapova, 6'2", 130 lbs.
—Helen of Philadelphia
• Weights and measures are such a loaded issue in sports—if we’re being candid: especially in women’s sports—that I think we simply have to take them, pardon the pun, lightly. And move on. In a sport with weight classes it would be different. But what is the WTA supposed to do? Ask each player to step on the scale so accurate reporting can be assured?
I am sure many tennis fans, this one included, took issue with you calling Lauren Davis "slouch of a competitor.” Other than that, keep up the good work: I love reading your articles.
—Regards, Les Banas
• Yes, obviously a typo. We meant that Lauren Davis is NO slouch of a competitor. Her willingness to battle is among her core strengths. Actually let’s go back to her third round match. She plays Maria Sharapova and, at 5-4 in the tiebreaker, plays a wonderful 27-shot point, but then dumps a gimme volley into net. Even Roger Federer commiserated:
Setting aside how cool it is that Federer—about to go on the court—can be this animated about a Lauren Davis volley, consider this: the tiebreak now knotted 5-5, Davis regrouped and still won the next two points. That’s mental strength for ya.