With Nick Kygrios now in the finals of Wimbledon – the first Australian man to make the Wimbledon singles final since Mark Philippoussis achieved the feat in 2003 – we thought we’d run through the reasons why we think he’s Australia’s equivalent to Ireland’s Conor McGregor…
Nick Kyrgios has shaken the tennis world since turning pro in 2013. His behaviour both on and off the court has made headlines and caused controversy, with the star rarely willing to let others’ opinions stultify his actions (even when it probably wouldn’t hurt).
Bringing attitude and entertainment rarely seen in tennis before, it’s not hard to see Nick Kyrgios as an Aussie version of infamous Irish UFC fighter Conor McGregor (despite their large height difference). McGregor’s own career has been littered with controversies, has long been considered the “bad boy” of the sport, and shares a few other similarities with ‘King’ Kyrgios (both owning eyesore ‘lime green’ cars, for one).
While they can both be seen as cocky (McGregor more so), their skills in their sports are undeniable and have put fans of tennis and UFC in a tough spot, forcing them to breathe a breath of fresh air and accept the new kids on the block. However, their antics have also been seen as disrespectful and flippant (maybe too much excitement for tennis fans?), no matter how many new eyes they might bring to their sports.
Both have pretty boisterous personalities, rarely seeming to worry about customs or expectations of them, instead choosing to play the game their own way. Conor’s run in the UFC from 2014-2018 was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining the sport has seen, and while Kyrgios hasn’t (yet) seen the same highs as McGregor, his hot-temper can definitely draw some comparisons to the former featherweight and lightweight belt holder.
Whether you love or hate Kyrgios, it’s hard to deny he’s entertaining. Despite his growing infamous reputation, he seems to be in the media more than any other tennis player (maybe any other sports star sometimes). Kyrgios’s incidents, while less than tennis-like, have given the media something to talk about but also grown his name more than simply playing could.
From accusations of tanking (deliberately not playing to full ability), insulting Stan Wawrinka at the 2015 Rogers Cup (telling him “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that, mate”), copping a $17,500 fine for “miming masturbation with his water bottle”, further fines for ‘unsportsmanlike’ behaviour like spitting on the court and most recently for wearing red Jordan shoes and cap at Wimbledon, he’s definitely earnt his reputation (and more fines for his on-court behaviour than any other player in ATP history).
McGregor has seen a similar career littered with incidents (albeit much more physical than Kyrgios’s), including attacking the bus of his competitor Khabib Nurmagomedov, punching Khabib’s cousin post-fight at UFC229, an assault charge after hitting a man who refused a shot of his whisky, and attempting to punch Machine Gun Kelly at the MTV Video Music (fair enough), as well as a constant barrage of shit-talking against competitors (sometimes seen as taken over the line).
Incidents like these have played an almost essential role in their careers, giving them a constant place in the limelight and taking their profiles to the next level. But they’ve also made for some interesting love-hate relationships with the public and media. Despite showing their skills, their antics off the court and out of the octagon have ruffled feathers. Many previous players/fighters, fans and media personalities have had a lot to say about both of them – often happy to sing them praise when they’re up and winning but willing to tear them down as soon as they show any backsteps.
Maybe the most significant difference between them is their response to these relationships. Where McGregor feeds off the buzz and seems to enjoy being talked about as much as possible, Kyrgios definitely has some issues with the media and how he’s represented in it, often butting heads with reporters in post-game press conferences.
While this isn’t to say Kyrgios doesn’t enjoy being talked about, it seems the star sees himself as having been at times mistreated and as having unrealistic expectations about his demeanour forced on him. McGregor hasn’t had to worry about this as much, maybe due to the difference in expectations between tennis players and UFC fighters, or perhaps he’s simply risen above it and takes little notice of what others are saying now that he’s worth $200 million.
Agree or disagree, the comparison is hardly an insult as both are ultimate, in the eyes of many (rightly or wrongly) judged on how well they perform on the court (or in the Octagon), more so than what they do off it.