THE FITZ FILES
Fresh start: Nick Kyrgios went down to Frenchman Benoit Paire but provided new hope for Australian tennis. Photo: Pat Scala
The pity of it? It is that 18-year-old Canberran Nick Kyrgios made his big-time debut on the Australian stage so late on Thursday night, when too many would have missed it.
Yes, there has been a great reaction since, but not, in my view, a reaction commensurate with his achievement. He's 18, ranked 183 in the world, gets a wildcard into the Australian Open, and finds himself, at 10pm, in the sweltering heat of Rod Laver Arena against the vastly experienced Frenchman Benoit Paire, ranked 155 spots above him.
But did Kyrgios quaver, fret or frown? Not a bit of it. Words can't quite encapsulate just how aggressive and wondrous his play was, how much he went for the Frenchman from the first, how much he HAD A GO. He won the first two sets, and was up a break in the third set, by which time it was well after midnight. At that point the cramps set in, but still Kyrgios fought to the last breath – ignoring any suggestion that he might pull out – and finally went down 6-7, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
Fought hard: Thanasi Kokkinakis. Photo: Getty Images
All the way through the teenager engaged with the crowd – he was clearly loving every moment, he was a showman.
But the best thing? At the end, when it was time to go, and even as the crowd roared its appreciation, he bothered to clean up around his own chair, gathering up the banana peels and empty plastic bottles and carefully putting them in the rubbish bin. Oh, and when Channel Seven interviewed his father during the match, Kyrgios Snr came across as nature's gentleman, proud of his son but there to support him, not push him.
Kyrgios jnr is one to watch, as is his mate, Thanasi Kokkinakis, who had taken on world No.1 Rafael Nadal earlier in the day, and never backed down for a second, finally going down 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
Nadal said of Kokkinakis afterwards: "I really think he has a fantastic future. He has all the ingredients to be a top player." Ditto Kyrgios.
Out of a dark sky, Australian tennis suddenly looks like it has a future, and two blokes we can not only admire for their play, but also be proud of.
Get it all out
Hi, Kobe Bryant? Fitz here. Hey, bro, I know it's late at night, and I know you're bummed out by blowing out your Achilles, but any chance you could tell the TFF readership EXACTLY what you put on your Facebook in February? Don't leave anything out, hear? Go! "This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I've done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I'm supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that?? I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me . . . Then again maybe not! It's 3:30a.m., my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I'm wide awake. Forgive my venting ... Feels good to vent, let it out." No probs. Go bro.
So there reader Matthew Morrison was, just having a casual bike ride with his two sons, aged 9 and 7, on the path along Woolooware Road in Burraneer, when up ahead on the path he notices Ian Thorpe. In the same instant, the Olympian notices them, steps aside, smiles and lets the eldest son through with an encouraging wave and smile. As the lad passes, he and Thorpe exchange a high-five, and finally Thorpe allows the youngest son to pass, with lots of cheering and backslapping. As Matthew writes: "It's not often that your kids are cheered on by one of Australia's greatest ever sportsmen!" Gotta love this city.
There was always just something about James Hird. One of the most likeable, decent, charismatic players the AFL has produced, he was also one of the best players of his era, and on his way to becoming a highly accomplished coach as well. Of this crop of AFL coaches, if you had to pick the "man least likely" to be mixed up in a drugs scandal, it would have been him. In May, however, came the front-page allegations from The Age and the Herald that Hird had taken drugs on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list. I was as stunned as anyone. Quickly, Hird's defenders pointed out that as Hird was not competing, he was breaking no law at all, and it was his business. An interesting point, and all the stronger if Hird had said: "I will take whatever I damn well please, I am not on the field." But he didn't. He flat-out denied it, and I thought to give him the benefit of the doubt.
But then, the denouement. A 7.30 program and Danny Weidler's report on Channel Nine illustrated, in excruciating detail, just how close the relationship between Stephen Dank and Hird was, how intimately he was involved in reviewing all the supplements and extracts that Dank was giving his players. It blew apart all of Hird's denials in February that he didn't know anything about the stuff his players were given. It confirmed Wayne Bennett's analysis that a head coach would know all about what his players were getting, otherwise he was no head coach at all. But, in my view, that 7.30 report, and the content of those texts, sadly, really does make Hird's position untenable. His players were being injected with everything from the banned anti-obesity drug AOD9604 to extracts from a pig's brain, bark and cow colostrum – and he knew it all from the start. He really should stand down, and the AFL – and indeed all Australian sports – must help to bring their teams back from the murky world into which they have wandered by instituting a blanket "no needles" policy.
Here was commentator Ray Hudson, after Lionel Messi scored a truly staggering goal for Barcelona against Athletic Bilbao: "Whaaaa . . . are you kidding me? This man has absolutely made love to pure footballing magic that belongs in a different galaxy altogether than we are living in. Absolute astonishing, jaw-dropping genius from Lionel. Watch this hesitation right there. Three players inside a telephone box and he don't care. He emasculates them individually, collectively. He literally disperses his atoms inside of his body on one side of this defender and then collects them on the other. Magisterial, Lionel! Magnifico! Extraordinario! Barcelona bounce back, Messi leading the way with his brilliant blaugrana flag. It's on fire, and he sticks it into the hearts of Athletic Bilbao . . ." I think he was impressed. See the goal, and hear the commentary, at http://bit.ly/1409jR7.
What they said
Herald reader Cathy Little comments on an article about the heat at the Australian Open: "This is the worst sporting event in the world. It's got nothing to do with tennis, it's just a heat ordeal. It's going to take a death before some common sense enters the picture. I hope you people at home are enjoying watching this horrendous bloodsport you sick monkeys." I resemble that remark!
John Fitzgerald, on the tough first-round opponents of Aussies Bernard Tomic, Ashleigh Barty and James Duckworth at the Australian Open: "The Aussies certainly got the raw end of the chicken." Happened to me once, in Bali. Shocking.
Lara Bingle on Michael Clarke: "The best thing I ever did was leave. I got to experience all these opportunities. Otherwise, I would have three children by now. I felt like I was living in his dream."
Clarke's wife, Kyly, on Bingle: "I don't see the media as a forum in which to talk about yourself."
One of the Twitterati, Andrew Jackling @andrewf1, opines on the admittedly heavy tan of Lleyton Hewitt's wife: "Wow Bec Hewitt looks like she stuck her head in a bag of twisties for half an hour #AusOpen #cmonlleyton".
Pat Rafter on his short-lived comeback this week: "[Goran Ivanisevic] said it was F---ing bad. Not just bad, it was really bad. I said 'yeah', and he said 'you served OK'. "
South African batsman David Miller after smashing an unbeaten 101 from 38 balls in the IPL. "Thanks to Jesus Christ for giving me the talent." Pity he didn't give him humility, too.
Sergio Garcia, on not being paired with Tiger Woods in the final round of the Players Championship. "I'm not going to lie, Tiger's not my favourite guy to play with. He's not the nicest guy on tour. It's good for both of us ... We don't enjoy each other's company. You don't have to be a rocket engineer to figure that out."
Cronulla's Wade Graham, as he fronted ASADA for questioning, and they asked him to paint a picture of his career: "I'm not here to paint a f---ing picture." Goodo. Any chance, you could just tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the f---ing truth? Why not? Why the f--- NOT? Huh?
David Campese in The Telegraph, London: "I always have to work for people other than the Australians. You have to do and say the right things to get a job there. And that's never going to happen. That's why I moved to South Africa. I was basically driven out of my own country. Tall poppy syndrome, mate."
David Warner tweets Robert Craddock: "Shock me @crashcraddock1 talking s*** about ipl jealous p**ck. Get a real job. All you do is bag people. #getalife."
When Malcolm Conn came to the defence of his colleague, Warner responded: "Are you still talking you old fart, no wonder know one buys your paper." Is it even possible for someone who went to school for 13 years to think "no one" is spelt "know one"? I no, I no, I am being an elitist dickhead, but know one is without flaws!
Team of the week
Nick Kyrgios. A star is born. Given a wildcard into the Australian Open, the 183rd ranked player in the world gave it everything against Frenchman Benoit Paire, ranked 28th, and took him all the way to five sets.
Lleyton Hewitt. As ever, fought with everything he had in him, over four hours, 40 minutes, in 40-degree heat, against Andreas Seppi, only to narrowly go down.
Bernard Tomic. After winning four games in the first set against Rafael Nadal, pulled out with a groin strain.
Sydney University first grade colts. In early May, beat Penrith 162-0. Not good for them, and a disaster for rugby. Tell me again how AFL paid $1 million a season to get Israel Folau to Greater Western Sydney but his club team is now Sydney Uni?
Andy Gunstone. In May, the 50-year-old notched up his 1000th game for the Terry Hills Rugby Club, and announced his retirement, effective immediately. He retired as captain of the firsts and the most respected man in the club. Well done, oh good and faithful servant of the game.
Benji Marshall. The one-time wizard of the NRL found himself dropped to the bench for Wests Tigers and shortly thereafter began negotiating a switch to rugby union, where this year he will turn out for the Auckland Blues.
Majak Daw. Six goals and a great mark for North Melbourne against the Western Bulldogs show the one-time Sudanese refugee is worth the hype.
Essendon Football Club. Something is crook in Tallarook. The club was engulfed by a drug scandal for most of the year.
Kiri Schroeter. The South Australian, who was born in Cambodia, is a budding skateboarder, despite being born without hands or feet.
Queensland State of Origin team. With their eighth successive series win, they're on their way to displacing the St George team of the 1950s and '60s, which won 11 premierships in a row, as league's most accomplished team.
Ashton Agar. Was the romantic sport story of the year, coming in at last drop in his Test debut, and going on to rip a superb 99 runs.