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Tennis time away from the tour and ‘Mamba Mentality’ 2020 was the year Nick Kyrgios needed

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Like most people, the Australian tennis phenomenon Nick Kyrgios thinks his mother’s home cooking is one of the best around – and he has had all the time to come to that conclusion, having lived in the family home since late February, when the COVID-19 crisis really hit.

“People tend to be biased and say their mom is always a good cook, but my mom is really good,” said 25-year-old ESPN from his bedroom adorned with various framed sports jerseys.

“We had a big party last night. But just being at home in my own bed, with my dog, just sitting in my own house [has been good]. “

While many players have endured a global pandemic as the tennis train travels around the world, the Canberra native enjoyed the tour for a while. He says he is catching up with friends and family at a time when he would normally move from hotel room to hotel room, city to city.

“I haven’t been home to my family and friends like this in seven years; [usually] a huge block from the post-Australian Open tennis schedule until about this time, ”he says.

“I don’t take it for granted, it was a great time at home seeing my parents, siblings, and just being at home in Canberra is quite special. Tennis is a strange sport – especially since we are from Australia, we’re never home. So I’m really lucky right now. “

But to say that Kyrgios has turned his thumbs while the rest of the tour continues to play in tournaments around the world would be wrong; Aside from his usual workout routines, he immersed himself in some of his other passions, playing video games while streaming on Twitch, and of course watching basketball.

“Basketball was my first love, even before tennis. I had a basketball hoop outside my house and I’m a huge Celtics fan. I honestly just started playing basketball around the same time. I picked up a ball and it felt natural. just love the sport. I think it’s the best sport in the world, “says Kyrgios.

And he has had time to pay close attention to the events of the NBA’s Florida bubble; his beloved Boston Celtics flew to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to the Miami Heat in Game 6.

“I was heartbroken when the Celtics went to the Heat, I honestly thought this was a series we were going to play. Jimmy Butler, he was an absolute dog in all playoffs, and he has cemented himself as a superstar in the league, ”says Kyrgios.

“But if [it wasn’t to be] the Celtics, the Lakers are my next team. I like Rondo. Rondo region is one of my favorite players, and I thought he played a big part in the playoffs – giving him stability and controlling the pace.

‘But I am happy LeBron James got that ring. They always said he did it in a ‘weak east’ and now he went west, finished the number 1 seed and got it done, so I’m super excited for LeBron. “

Far from being a regular NBA fan, the world’s No. 43 has been completely immersed in the competition for most of his life; two years ago he collaborated with Kyrie Irving to release a hoops tennis crossover sneaker that, according to Kyrgios, will help ‘bridge the gap’ between the sports, while the Australian also revealed he had previously overtaken Celtics Gordon Hayward during a tennis tournament in Miami.

You only need to look back to January, when the world learned of the devastating news that Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash, to see the impact basketball – and Kobe – had on its growth from Kyrgios. up.

He wore Bryant’s famous No. 8 jersey on his walk to Rod Laver Arena for his fourth round of the Australian Open against Rafael Nadal – headphones on, wiping tears from his eyes.

“That day still weighs heavily on me. I woke up and that was the first thing I saw on my phone. Honestly, I didn’t believe it at first, and then it collapsed and it was just tough,” Kyrgios recalls .

“Going out [onto the court that night]I was very concerned about how I would perform with that weight in my head. What he stood for as a basketball player, always trying to get better, always trying to help people and get the best out of everyone, and when I wore his jersey, taking the court was something I’ll never forget.

“I had my headphones on but I didn’t play anything because I just wanted to hear the reaction, the atmosphere and I just broke down, because I watched Kobe almost every day of my life growing up.

‘It was a very sad day, but I’m glad the Lakers, LeBron, are them [won the 2020 NBA Finals] for him – it fed everyone in that organization.

“Even myself, if I have those days when I train or play in that jersey – I got him tattooed on my arm too, so he’s someone I’ll never forget.”

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Nick Kyrgios looks back on the day Kobe Bryant passed away and what it felt like putting on his jersey on the track at the Australian Open.

Kyrgios says he posts the legend of Bryant, James and Bulls Michael Jordan in the same “God-tier”, admitting he hates ordering them, as many try to do in the never-ending “GOAT debate.”

‘I hate to make comparisons. I know we should do them because as humans we always try to compare [LeBron and Jordan], and who has had a better career, but I think there is a category just for them. I think Michael, Kobe and LeBron are in that God layer where they are just untouchables. They were all special in their own way, they all did different things for their team, ‘says Kyrgios.

“LeBron is one of the best of all time in all sports, I think. The things he does both off and on the field are so special, I don’t think we’ve ever seen that. But his consistency – he’s so underappreciated , if he has a triple double, that’s normal … and if he’s a little off, [the critics come]. “

Dealing with critics is something that LeBron and Kyrgios may have in common. Analyzing and speaking out to within an inch of his life on the court, Kyrgios has, to the amusement of some, a vocal ‘voice of reason’ in tennis in 2020.

From his living room in Australia’s national capital, Kyrgios was most critical of the decision to go ahead with June’s Adria Tour, which went ahead without enough social distance or crowd restrictions, and, unsurprisingly, ended with four players, including Novak Djokovic test positive for the coronavirus.

Kyrgios also strongly condemned the actions of Alexander Zverev, which was filmed partying around others while not long afterwards supposedly ‘isolating himself’.

He says he’s not one to shy away from his opinion, claiming that people value “the honesty” more than anything else.

“Everything I say is quite factual when I talk about things that have happened or about business [in the world]. I just say it like it is, I just say what I personally think, and there will always be people who disagree, but I think people appreciate the honesty. I mean I do when someone talks about an issue and they are honest and it is what they think, ”he tells ESPN.

Despite his sometimes brash nature on social media, the Australian says he is starting to feel ‘the warmth’ of more tennis fans, something that may have stemmed from his charity work for underprivileged children and the generous pledge to donate money to the Australian bushfire an appeal for any ace deposited during the Australian summer of tennis.

He raised AU $ 33,800 for forest fire relief using just his aces, and inspired many others, including athletes from other sports, to make similar, generous contributions. The ‘Rally for Relief’ event, of which Kyrgios was the principal architect, raised nearly AU $ 5,000,000.

“I’ve never been one to crave to be liked or anything like that. When I was a young guy I was always very emotional when I played and nothing really changed,” he admits with a wry smile.

‘Whether the perception was that they loved me or hated me, my stadiums are always full, TV ratings are on the rise … but this year people lost homes and lives with the wildfires … and so I posted it tweeted that I’d donated for every bait, and it went out all over Australia and then worldwide.

“I’m not looking for the media attention for that kind of thing, I just realized we could help. In Canberra we had the most toxic air in the world at one point (because of the wildfires) and we couldn’t really go to go outside – it was not pleasant.

“I’ve certainly felt the public perception a little more warm to me, but it hasn’t prompted me to do these things.”

The Australian Open was the last Grand Slam Kyrgios to play, and it will likely be the next he plays. Of course, Kyrgios says he misses the game, admitting that it is difficult to get the same energy on the practice courts or play video games as “going on the court in front of thousands of people and playing against the best players in the world”.

“It’s something I long for and miss. But having said that, it has given me time to focus on some of the basics in life that I may have overlooked or that I have over the years. of my life, ”Kyrgios tells ESPN.

He says there have been times on tour when he got away for a while, so the almost melancholic serendipity of the COVID-19 pandemic has played into the hands of the Aussie.

“When I was traveling and playing all the time and never really being at home, I had the perspective that ‘tennis wasn’t everything’. It was all one big blur, I could never really just sit and appreciate the little things and in one If I lost, I would fly to the next place and stay in a different hotel every week, ”he says.

“I almost screamed for a break from the tour so I could go home and be with my family.”

And after some much-needed rest and recovery in 2020, Kyrgios says he’s gearing up for a grand 2021.

“Fingers crossed, my body stays healthy so I can compete and be outdoors and play well. And that means I can keep helping and using my platform. The better I play, I can keep helping with my foundation (NK Foundation), and that’s what feeds me, ”he says.

“Just to be happy, that’s the goal. I’m not a result-oriented man, as if I wasn’t playing for me.” [at the Australian Open], I played for the forest fires.

“As long as my mind is in the right place, I think everything else will follow.”

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