The general “fear of failure” is holding Nick Kyrgios back

The sequencing of ability to perform, or lack thereof, underlies each athlete’s assessment.

Perhaps no one represents this notion better than Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios. One of the most polarizing figures in sport, Kyrgios is entering a chapter in his career where that transition must take shape.

The 27-year-old’s talent is undeniable. It’s everything that surrounds Kyrgios’ talent that threatens to hinder his development to great success.

Kyrgios has gained a reputation for losing his cool, throwing tantrums on the pitch and berating fans. He’s seen matches collapse from self-inflicted struggles and behaviors that prevent him from consistently playing at the level he’s capable of.

Most recently, Kyrgios accused the referee of his US Open victory in the second round against Benjamin Bonzi an alleged smell of marijuana in the air, and yelled, “You don’t even want to remind someone not to? … It was fucking marijuana. Of course I will not complain about food.”

Nick Kyrgios reacts during day three of the 2022 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2022 in the men's singles second round match against Benjamin Bonzi.
Nick Kyrgios reacts to Benjamin Bonzi in the men’s singles match at the US Open.
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During the Wimbledon final in July – Kyrgio’s first-ever grand final – he started a tirade against a fan which he shouted, “had about 700 drinks” and was “insanely drunk.” After winning the first set, Kyrgios collapsed after his tantrum and lost the next three sets. The fan is now suing Kyrgios for defamation and Kyrgios was subsequently fined $10,000 for spitting at a fan at the start of the tournament.

All of this was just the latest in a long line of similar antics. Off the pitch, Kyrgios faces Allegations of assaulting his ex-girlfriendChiara Passari.

John McEnroe argues with a referee about a decision made at Wimbledon in 1991.
John McEnroe argues with a referee about a decision made at Wimbledon in 1991.
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The only thing standing in Kyrgios’ way is Kyrgios. That’s often the struggle American tennis legend John McEnroe, iconic for his on-court anger, has had to endure.

“Everybody gets this look at how close you get to your potential, how you maximize your potential,” McEnroe told the Post ahead of his documentary “McEnroe” airing on Showtime on Friday. “That is always the goal of every athlete. All athletes have a fear of failure. How do you deal with that? … In Nick’s case, like all of us, we’re scared of failure, it’s his way of trying to relieve some of the pressure. Unfortunately, sometimes he is not allowed to do his best, he has stopped competing.”

Kyrgios has admitted he bullies games when he’s been molested, particularly recently when he said he “literally threw tennis games” when his favorite team, the Celtics, lost. Just as quickly as he stuns fans with shots between his legs, he unravels in a disturbing way.

It’s clear that Kyrgios’ emotions are holding his performance back. This fear of failure and inner pressure, McEnroe explained from personal experience, manifests itself in misplaced anger towards others. How an athlete deals with these emotions often dictates this elusive development of ability to perform.

Kyrgios, on the other hand, plays the best tennis of his career. After his second place at Wimbledon, he won the Citi Open last month and showed the breathtaking highlights that make him so fascinating. He has crossed in his first two US Open matches and meets JJ Wolf in the third round.

Kyrgios has all the skills he needs. However, to get to the achievement level, he only has to compete against himself.

“Luckily lately it seems like he’s found a good place in his life and he’s doing a much better job at it,” McEnroe said. “Nick moves the needle, he’s a great boy. The players like him, the fans like him, he brings something to the table. He’s the most talented player to have been out there in the last 10 years, without exception. So you want to see a guy maximize his potential. It would be a shame if he didn’t.”

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