Kyrgios’ Riddle: Where does all the love for this mean boy come from?

The other day, a Wimbledon interviewer took a chance and teased Nick Kyrgios. It turns out you can’t tease Kyrgios. He doesn’t like it one bit. The interview with Lee McKenzie took place on court 1, a couple of minutes after the Australian beat Stefanos Tsitsipas with a combination of flashy and cheap shots.

(The cheap punches mentioned included yelling, pouting, ranting, whining, insulting the referee, and underhand submission.)

Thereafter, Kyrgios patronizingly sympathized with Tsitsipas and his “frustrations” during the match. To which Mackenzie responded with her warmest sarcasm, “Well, you’re hiding your disappointment.” So okay, Nick.”

The crowd chuckled, but Kyrgios refused to grace her insolence with laughter or even a shy smirk. He just pouted and glared at her, his well-groomed chin crooked like a besotted Gucci model. Kyrios often acts like a 6.3m toddler, but heck, even real toddlers can laugh at themselves.

Earlier in an interview, he claimed that he was a big fan of Tsitsipas, although no one believed in this. In any case, the feeling was clearly not mutual. A few minutes later, Tsitsipas stated at his own press conference that Kyrgios was a “hooligan” with an “evil side”.

But Kyrgios showed some false respect: “I love him and am close to his brother.” (Translation: “I love his brother.”)

As the crowd reveled in this nonsense, the cameras switched to his girlfriend Costin Hatzi, who was looking away with a glazed expression and biting her lip, perhaps to stop saying, “Oh my God, you’re such a fucking liar, Nick.”

Am I the only one trying to understand Kyrgios? I feel like I should have some time for it, but I just don’t have it. He’s a problem for me and perhaps for a whole generation of middle-aged sports fans who grew up worshiping incredibly arrogant athletes whose talents were great enough to cash the checks written by their arrogance.

And, no doubt, the talent of Kyrgios is large enough to cash out almost any behavioral check. In 1980s terms, he plays tennis with the improvisational subtlety of Henri Leconte combined with the commanding base strength of Ivan Lendl. Serve – bazooka, throw – kiss. Anything can happen in any Kyrgios rally. So what’s not to love?

My great athletes including the likes of Diego Maradona, Eric Cantona, Benny McCarthy and Herschel Gibbs. They were all egomaniacs, and some of them were not very smart. I loved them all equally. So why can’t I love Nick Kyrgios? Am I just too old to understand this? What is it that turns me off?

The difference may be in his character, but it may also be the artificial character of a digital celebrity. Superstar egos get over-inflated with virtual love cocaine on social media. Trump’s Twitter feed confirmed his worst instincts. This deepened the groove of his meanness. Kyrgios may be better looking than Trump, but his energy is not much different.

And the crowd’s love for this ugly energy is strange. How the hell could Kyrgios be a crowd favorite compared to Tsitsipas, whose own outbursts of indiscipline were systematically spurred on by his adversary? John McEnroe was criticized by the crowd in his time, and he was not half as rude as Kyrgios.

Kyrgios is not a bad boy, he is just a bad boy. His presence doesn’t seem violent or brash, it just seems vengeful. Even when he tries to be “charming” it seems like a calculated, tactical move. The bite is always waiting. Having made a major unforced error, he often reflexively looks at his box and snaps at his surroundings: his physical therapist, his father, his girlfriend. Give me more love. Why don’t you support me? it your fault!

No wonder Kyrgios’ previous girlfriend accused him of assault this week.

But why all the love for that mean boy? Something has changed in the public reading of the character. A celebrity’s ability to intimidate, insult, reject, and aggressively self-pity – to play out nascent collective anger as a kind of cathartic pantomime – reads like honesty, like masculinity, to the public. If you are a jerk, then, logically, you are real, and for this you deserve love and recognition.

Well, not from me.