- ‘Kyrgios doesn’t have a dishonest bone in his body’ says Indian-origin Australian basketball trainer, Mahesh Padmanabhan
- Padmanabhan opens up about Kyrgios and how he used basketball as preparatory sessions for Wimbledon.
- Kyrgios who is known in the tennis community for shunning training describes basketball as meditation.
Indian-origin Mahesh Padmanabhan, an Australian basketball trainer, has special access to Nick Kyrgios’ contentious world and can therefore provide some valuable insight. After spending the last 18 months as a key member of Kyrgios’ team, I can attest to the stark contrast between what is said about them in the outside world and what appears to be reality.
He says that it in a traditional sport like tennis where a lot of importance is given to ‘gentlemanly behaviour’, it is often easier to be viewed in negative light. In his opinion, people often long for a narrative and put greater emphasis on the negative aspects. He vouched for the honesty for his good friend, Nick Kyrgios.
Even at this point in his career, Kyrgios’ first-ever appearance in a Grand Slam final may have surprised some people, but not Padmanabhan. The run at Wimbledon was fueled by Kyrgios’ training and meditation routine, which included basketball, as well as the ban on a number of Russian tennis players from competing in England.
It all began with a straightforward request, made first over Instagram and subsequently by his management. The announcement was made because Kyrgios wanted to play hoops and release some steam. While coaching athletes in Australia, Padmanabhan, a professional basketball player who has played in two different leagues in India and trained with an NBL club, learned that the erratic Australian was searching for a pickup game.
They eventually met and started playing 3-on-3 basketball in a church in Sydney that also had a small court nearby. In no time at all, Kyrgios relocated to Sydney to be nearer to his love, and the basketball practises became a staple of his week.
Kyrgios could be himself on the basketball court. Once you hit a couple of three-pointers in a row, the iconic trash talking that has been heard in centre courts all around the world began to emerge. But in this case, it was embraced.
Speaking of his demeanour on court, Padmanabhan said that Kyrgios is exactly the same on basketball court as he is in the tennis court. He further goes on to say that the basketball world is plausibly better at acceptance of him than the tennis world.
He typically plays in the wing because of his height of 6’4″ and broad wingspan. Deadly mid-range jumper who becomes unguardable when he gets hot. Padmanabhan also said how he occasionally discusses some high level basketball fundamentals with him since he is relatively new to structured basketball. Kyrgios, he says is a quick learner and an elite athlete, comments Padmanabhan.
Kyrgios is well-known in the tennis community for eschewing training and has said that basketball is a form of meditation. However, there are certain benefits that may be transferred from the game to his world of tennis, even though it has given him a way to calm his mental health.
Kyrgios has discovered some of the fundamental movements of tennis in basketball, whether it be the lateral agility needed to glide down the baseline, the quickness of foot needed to react swiftly to changing conditions, or brief sprints followed by a period of rest. Basketball has ultimately given the Australian the means to disconnect from a sport that doesn’t really care to understand him while yet keeping him sharp enough to participate in it, even if one sport cannot obviously replace the other.
They may have begun playing basketball when Kyrgios’ management got in touch with him, but their friendship developed because they had things in common. Intense tennis player Padmanabhan, whose parents came to Sydney from Chennai in 1985, tried to become a pro until he was 18 years old, when he realised that a long-term career in the sport wasn’t for him. The decision was the right one for him, especially after experiencing a handful of Kyrgios’ serves during their brief tennis practise session.