Exclusive: ‘He got too much too soon’ – Annabel Croft on bad boy Nick Kyrgios

ATP Tour
Nick Kyrgios

Former British No.1 Annabel Croft believes that tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios will regret his antics on an off the court when his playing career comes to an end.

Speaking exclusively to Tennis365 on the press balcony at Wimbledon, BBC sports broadcaster Croft suggested Aussie maverick Kyrgios is not in love with the sport that has made him a multi-millionaire, as she suspects the money that has come his way has diluted his ambition.

Ahead of his eagerly anticipated match-up with Rafael Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon on Thursday, Croft offered up an honest critique of the player who divides opinion like no other in the modern game.

“He must be unbelievably frustrating to play against,” Croft told us. “All his opponents know he has the talent to blow anyone off the court and that includes Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. He tends to play better against those guys as he seems to be able to maintain focus and applies himself mentally.

“The trouble is, you just don’t know which Kyrgios is going to turn up and to see him tanking in a set when he doesn’t even try, as he did against Jordan Thompson on Tuesday, is just rather odd behaviour.

“He is smiling, messing around, joking with the crowd and it strikes me as the behaviour of someone who doesn’t particularly love what he’s doing. It might also be that he’s got too much money to take it seriously at this stage. He doesn’t need it enough. Maybe he got too much too soon and can’t really handle it.

“I feel sad that he appears to be so confused about is place on the court and at the moment he is un-coachable. He has too much power and money to respect the opinion of anyone in the game and he also has too much power and money to care what anything thinks about him.

“I just think that one day he might look back and question what he has done. In this bubble world of tennis, you don’t really appreciate what you have got while you are in it and can mature once it’s all over.

“We saw that scenario with Ashleigh Barty. She took time out of the sport, learned to appreciate it again and has come back a better player who is ready to win Grand Slam titles. She knows what she wants to be in tennis and that is what Kyrgios needs to do now. There is no question he could do a lot in the sport if he wanted to, but how much does he want it? I’m not so sure.”

Croft went on to suggest Kyrgios would benefit from working with a sports psychologist as he looks to find his place in the game, as she honestly admitted that kind of helps would have also been useful for her in a playing career reach a career-high of No.24 in the rankings.

“I found playing at Wimbledon to be a big ordeal,” she added. “Every player wants to win Wimbledon, but coming from Britain makes that challenge even bigger. This is what we have all grown up with, this is where everyone wants to be.

“When you finally get here, the pressure is on to play your best tennis and that is a pressure I didn’t enjoy. I always had a lot of stage fright and I wish back then, we had more sports psychologists involved because they could have definitely benefited me.

“We didn’t have sports psychology in my day as a player and I probably only discovered who I was a person and a player once my career had finished.”
Wimbledon 2019 will be on BBC TV, Radio and Online from 1st – 14th July

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