Australia’s tennis stars have been causing something of a stir in recent weeks and months. In June, Ashleigh Barty claimed her first Grand Slam title with her stunning triumph at the French Open. By the time Barty reached the fourth round of Wimbledon, the Aussie had been on a 15-match unbeaten run, before her remarkable exertions caught up with her in defeat to Alison Riske.
By contrast, Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios have been adding to their respective notoriety in the men’s game. After a tame first round defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomic was fined £45,000 – the equivalent of his entire first round prize money – for.
Kyrgios, meanwhile, was busy aiming a series of verbal barbs towards his second-round opponent Rafael Nadal, as well as getting spotted in a bar the night before the match. Kyrgios is infamous for his lackadaisical, care-free attitude towards the sport, and this has continually caused annoyance for those who appreciate Kyrgios’ undoubted talent but remain frustrated by his conduct.
Barty represents the great Australian sporting traditions of hard work and passion married with personality. Her success is the result of a steely determination to reach the summit of women’s tennis. She has posted solid results in Grand Slams for over a year, but the French Open triumph was a sign that Barty is not content to be an also-ran, that she has the ability and the attitude to win majors and take the women’s game by the scruff of the neck, something no female player has been able to do since the Williams sisters were at the height of their powers.
As the tennis calendar rolls around towards the next Grand Slam, Barty will be among the heavy favourites for the, and deservedly so given her improvement over the last year and a half, a rise that has ultimately led Barty to world number one.
Her success puts bothTomicand Kyrgios firmly in their place. In Tomic’s case, few can argue that the ability to be a top 30 player is there somewhere within him. He has reached as high as 17 in the men’s world rankings, and has a Wimbledon quarter-final appearance to his name.
Perhaps the key to Tomic achieving greater success lies in him finding some greater belief in his own abilities. The fine imposed on him after his Wimbledon defeat seemed somewhat harsh, especially given that he only lost the third set by a 6-4 margin, but tennis is a sport that accepts nothing less than 100%, and Tomic could look at such a punishment as a confirmation that he is much better than that result suggests.
Kyrgios’ antics have caused no small amount of clamour in the tennis world throughout his career. Through press-conference controversy, under-arm serving, and various other shenanigans on and off the court, the 24-year-old has assumed the role of tennis’ chief antagonist, unafraid to vocalise what he feels are failures of his sport, or failures in his opponents. He is an enemy of the strict, respectful traditions tennis tries so hard to cling to, for better or for worse.
In many ways, there would be little wrong with Kyrgios’ behaviour if he were at least posting good results on the court. However, the Australian’s slide down the rankings are evidence that he perhaps is struggling to find the performances that his talent deserves, nay demands. Of course, injuries have played their part, but the greatest athletes are those who can overcome adversity, who can overcome their own mental fragility and insecurities, a truth that both Kyrgios and Tomic need to realise and work to put in effect.
For now, Barty is Australia’s pride and joy in tennis, with Kyrgios and Tomic merely hovering around the edges. The 23-year-old’s hard work has yielded success, and will undoubtedly yield further success down the line, a testament to how dedication to one’s craft can bring about fulfilment of one’s abilities.