Who would have thought that Canberra’s Nick Kyrgios would morph from tennis brat and national embarrassment to statesman of the game in such a short space of time?
It seems like only yesterday that we were ready to disown Kyrgios for his on-court antics despite his prodigious talent with the racquet.
Now our Nick, with a hint of maturity, a more balanced perspective and a laser-like turn of phrase has summed up the national mood about spoilt tennis players and COVID-19 quarantine rules in a way that can’t be misconstrued by his fellow Australians.
“Djokovic is a tool,” Nick served up on Twitter, in a masterful display of how to use the social media platform.
Such richness of meaning in so few words. We all got it, but the Joker may be wondering how his list of demands for Australian Open players, including being moved to private homes with a tennis court, could go so wrong.
Of all the countries in the world to pull such an entitled stunt, Australia, which has avoided the worst of the pandemic through disciplined government-led measures and whose people still have little regard for those claiming special privileges, was probably not a great choice.
Just going ahead with the Open is a huge risk for the Victorian Government, which has had to endure barbs that it has turned the state into a prison to keep COVID-19 at bay.
While the lockdown measures crushed the virus and allowed the Boxing Day Test to proceed with a crowd, returning some normality to the summer, the Open was always going to be a more difficult event to manage, with the army of players and their entourages, officials and media flying in from across the globe and countries being ravaged by the virus.
Some were also going to test positive for the virus, initiating lockdowns for them and their contacts.
It isn’t great for elite athletes whose lives are run by a crazy calculus of ball hitting, gym regimes, diet control and sleep management.
But if the rules that have kept us safe are good enough for us, then they are good enough for a bunch of professional tennis players, some of whom have stellar incomes and live in a gilded world far removed from the lives of the people they are paid to entertain.
It is admirable that sporting organisations such as the football codes, Cricket Australia, and now Tennis Australia have done the work to keep sport alive as we oscillate between outbreaks, lockdowns and quasi-normality.
Part of our national psyche, it’s been restorative, and we have been treated to some phenomenal experiences, such as the Indian Test victory in Brisbane.
It is true that the Australian Open now can’t offer a level playing field, with some players unable to train as normal.
But they knew the rules, or at least their managers did, and they should take a look outside their tennis tour bubble to see the wreckage and carnage being wreaked around the world and gain a little perspective.
Playing here is a privilege, as is being able to watch them. As sportspeople, they should understand that they have to play within the tournament rules.
There is so much more to life than tennis, something our Nick seems to have grasped, which ironically has probably made him a happier player and most certainly more endearing.