Rising tennis stars Bernard Tomic​ and Nick Kyrgios should be celebrated not criticised

So, Bernie has upset the members of a Gold Coast tennis club and baulked at paying a $20 court fee there and big Nick has a sore foot/sore Achilles/sore head (exact injury to be decided) and has had a pop at the umpire and line judges while walking away from the Priceline Pharmacy Classic.

Moaning about the heat on Wednesday in Kooyong, about the fact that he would have rather been in bed and that, basically, he did not want to be there at all, Kyrgios​ managed to come up with a minor injury crisis that allowed him to pull out of his match with David Goffin​ in the second set. He had already registered his displeasure at the officials (should have gone to Specsavers was the general gist of it) so as soon as the trainer agreed that playing through the "pain" was probably not wise, Kyrgios was off like a shot.

Troubled talent: Nick Kyrgios is doing his growing up in public.
Troubled talent: Nick Kyrgios is doing his growing up in public.  Photo: Getty Images

Don't worry though: he is absolutely positive that he will be as fit as a flea by Monday. A nation can rest easy, then.

In the general scheme of things, the recent antics of Bernard Tomic​ and Nick Kyrgios are hardly earth-shattering but this is the eve of the Australian Open and in all sense reality has been suspended for the foreseeable future. The fact that Tomic and Kyrgios are the world Nos 17 and 30 respectively and represent the best hopes that Australia can muster in the men's singles is irrelevant; their every move must be monitored, analysed and dissected and if it is found wanting, both men are to be publicly castigated. Preferably by an Aussie tennis legend. 'Twas ever thus.

Illustration: Matt Davidson.
Illustration: Matt Davidson. 

Neither man is new to the world of fame or, indeed, infamy and both have done far worse over the course of their short careers. Back in July, Tomic ended up in the slammer after a wild party in his penthouse suite at a swish Miami hotel and just a few weeks later, Kyrgios landed himself with a 28-day ban, suspended for six months, for telling Stan Wawrinka​ that Thanasi Kokkinakis​ "banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that, mate" during a match at the Canadian Open. By those standards, their latest misdemeanours are small beer.

Now, no one is going to suggest that, at their absolute worst, Messrs Tomic and Kyrgios are hard done by. Millionaires both, they wear shorts to go to work and spend their lives travelling to some of the most exciting cities in the world. When they make mistakes and take a hammering for it, it is hard to feel too sorry for them. You lost your licence for driving your Ferrari too fast? My gums bleed for you.

But, at the same time, they are both young (Tomic is 23 and Kyrgios is just 20) and they have had to do their growing up in public. When the rest of us were grumpy teenagers, rebelling against authority, growling at our parents and getting into trouble with our peers, no one noticed. When Tomic and Kyrgios did it, it made the six o'clock news and was splashed across the front and back pages of most newspapers. And all the while, they were both trying to live up to their billing as Australia's next great hope. That was, and is, their biggest problem.

Australia is a vast land with a relatively small population, most of whom are sports mad. The UK, the damp little rock that I call home, is just a fraction of the size yet has 40 million more people living on it than you have here. It is far easier to get lost in the crowd back in Blighty – as many a Premier League footballer has discovered to his great relief – than it is in Australia. Sure enough, we British media types are as guilty as anyone of building our heroes up only to knock them down again, but there are just more of them (and they are doing more things, far worse things) back home.

As the Open starts, there will be the usual muttering and moaning about the behaviour and attitude of Tomic and Kyrgios but that will be missing the point. Both men are true talents and both are unique characters in a relatively bland sport.

For years, we have had the big four at the top of the game who have mopped up the grand slam titles and made history for themselves. Their elite club is a mutual appreciation society in which A beats B and then B praises A for doing so. Then we have had the chasing pack, a group of awfully nice young men who show due respect to the big guns and play decent enough tennis as they lose in the quarter and semi-finals. But then you have Australia's two new stars.

Tomic has learned, a little slowly perhaps, what it takes to make the grade at the top end of the game. This past year, he has kicked on; he has concentrated more, worked harder and has ploughed his way up the rankings to reach a career high. In his current form, no one will relish an appointment with him on Rod Laver Arena.

As for Kyrgios, he has appeared to tank a few matches in the past but he lives for the big stage and the big moment – and it does not get much bigger than his home slam. His game is explosive and when he is fit and focused, he can take your breath away with his power and audacity. The man is a talent to be treasured, not picked apart. If he were to win the title here, the traditionalists may huff and puff over their scotch and sodas but no one in the locker room would be surprised: on his day, Kyrgios has the beating of anyone and the top seeds know it.

The next two weeks will be damned hard work on the court for Tomic and Kyrgios and could be trying off it. But in both of them, Australia has champions in the making. Surely that is something to celebrate rather than criticise.

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