Monday, September 26, 2022

The Indian basketball connection that helped Nick Kyrgios reach the Wimbledon final

“Literally a month and a half ago I was playing basketball with some kids at home and I said to one of them, ‘I think I’m going to have fun and maybe win Wimbledon,'” Nick Kyrgios said after losing to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final at Sunday. “So I’m here as a finalist. I didn’t hit more than an hour a day.”

As amazing as his journey has been since then, there is an Indian hand in this journey.

Mahesh Padmanabhan, the Indian-born basketball player and now Australia coach, oversees the basketball games that Kyrgios referred to. Kyrgios plays with a band of college and semi-professional basketball players.

For some time now, by his own admission, Kyrgios has been using the game of basketball for fun, preparation, fitness, “meditation” and for some self-discipline.

“He was coming for people’s necks,” Padmanabhan told the Sydney Morning Herald. “He really wouldn’t hold back. That’s the culture we develop here when we go to play. The concern for me was, ‘Oh, it’s Nick Kyrgios, the tennis player with 10 million followers.’ Some people were shocked at first and didn’t really believe he was coming.

“But it passes quickly and that’s because of how he is. He’s not precious, he doesn’t want special treatment. He really hates it. He is most proud of himself for being respected as a basketball player who might be good enough to be in that environment. He doesn’t want special treatment for running and just having fun. He wants to beat them.”

The day his Wimbledon opponent Tsitsipas accused him of being a “bully”, Kyrgios returned to reminiscing about his basketball sessions in Australia.

“When I’m back home and you see me every day and who I’m competing with on the basketball court, these guys are dogs. The people I’m playing with at Wimbledon… He (Tsitsipas) is just soft. Come in here and say I bullied you, that’s a piece of cake. We are not cut from the same fabric. I face guys who are real competitors.”

One of the players is Chol Adup, who plays in the second division of Australian basketball. “Kyrgios is really good at basketball. Me and Nick fight all the time, man. What Nick is seeing from other people at Wimbledon is nothing compared to the KGV, man. If people see what we do on campus, they will be shocked. Nick is not the bully. I’m the bully,” Adup told The Age. “When Nick is around us, bro, the amount of things we say to him… we’re hard on him. We speak ill of him. We don’t sit down because he’s the big dog. When he’s there, he’s not the big dog because we fight with each other.” How does a fierce basketball session every day help a tennis player? Kyrgios explained to the Australian newspaper.

“Basketball is my meditation, but at the same time it’s good physical shape. People don’t realize that the defensive slips and defensive movements in basketball are almost identical to the way people move on a tennis court.”

The night after the biggest tournament of his life, Kyrgios talked about how he didn’t have a drop of beer during the two weeks of the tournament. Kyrgios abused so much drugs and alcohol at one point in his life that he came to games, “hungover”.

“I feel like I’ve committed a lot in these two weeks. What else can I do, to be honest? I stayed home most of the time,” she said. I just tried to sleep well, eat well. Not even a beer here or there. I committed. I’ve compromised everything I can compromise in these two weeks and ended up falling short. I’ve been taught that it’s okay – even if it sucks. Of course it sucks.”

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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