Nick Kyrgios didn’t fare so well in “The Championships” at Wimbledon this year. During the tournament, Kyrgios, who was ranked 43rd in the world in men’s professional tennis, went down in the second round to tennis great Rafael Nadal. The four-set match included two tiebreakers and was not without its drama and controversy.
Early in the match, Kyrgios was given a warning by the chair umpire for complaining about the officiating as it pertained to the pace of the game. The upshot was that Kyrgios, who prefers to work quickly, was irritated by having to slow the pace of the game whenever Nadal took more time. Probably more controversial, however, came during the third set, when Kyrgios attempted to bean Nadal in the chest by slamming the tennis ball toward the Spaniard with a hard forehand shot. Nadal deflected the ball with his racket, losing the point, and not surprisingly glaring back at his opponent for an extended moment.
Tennis protocol frowns on any intentional potshots against an opponent’s body. Even when a player inadvertently hits the ball too closely toward his opponent, the player almost always raises his hand, as if to say, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.” Kyrgios, however, apparently has no time for such niceties. In his post-match interview, after losing the match, he admitted that he intentionally tried to hit Nadal, and that he had no intention of apologizing for it. It was at least mildly interesting to see such blatant disregard for sportsmanship. Tennis is supposed to be a non-contact sport.
Perhaps more interesting, however, was Kyrgios’ admission that he doesn’t have the desire to be great enough to win a major. He stated in the interview:
Yeah, I mean, I know what I'm capable of. Just depends. I'm a great tennis player, but I don't do the other stuff. I'm not the most professional guy. I won't train day in, day out. I won't show up every day.
So there's a lot of things I need to improve on to get to that level that Rafa [Nadal] brings, Novak [Djokovic], Roger [Federer] have been doing for so long. Just depends how bad I want it.
But, no, at the moment I don't think I can contend for a Grand Slam.
It’s clear that Kyrgios doesn’t want it enough. His desire is lacking. He doesn’t want to put in the time and effort, and the blood, sweat and tears. That’s what it takes these exceptional athletes to move to the level of Grand Slam champion.
As an avid tennis fan, Kyrgios’ comments struck me almost as profane. When I was thirteen, my dream was to play at Wimbledon and, of course, to win it. In my well-thought-out fantasy, the final would pit me against the great Chris Evert, my tennis idol. After a tough three-setter, I would emerge the victor and be crowned the next tennis sensation. I’d even practiced my curtsy to the Duke and Duchess of Kent, who almost always awarded the trophies.
Nearly 20 years later, I did make it to Wimbledon and even to the famed Centre Court—as a spectator and tourist. The place truly is magical. It is hallowed ground in the tennis world, and one can’t help but feel with each step on the sprawling compound the aura of history and lore, heartbreak and triumph, and drama that is Wimbledon. That’s why it seems such a waste to see someone who has the ability, athleticism and opportunity to win such a tournament, yet lacks the desire. To a weekend hacker like me, the opportunity to play on a world-class stage like Wimbledon should be met with the utmost passion, determination and commitment to doing all it takes to win.
But even as I find fault with Kyrgios, I’m quickly reminded of my own hypocrisy and lack of desire in a realm that’s far more important and consequential than professional tennis. As a Christian, sometimes I can lack the zeal and the effort to pursue my faith like a champion athlete going after the prize. I’m not talking about trying to work for my salvation, which has already been freely provided through Christ’s work on the cross. I’m talking about wanting more of God’s presence in my life, and wanting it badly enough to make it my life’s priority. Sure, I want what God has for me, but too many times I give higher priority in my time and attention to other things. And it’s not that the other things are bad things. They’re just not the most important thing.
As Jesus once told an agenda-minded working woman named Martha, “one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42) And that one thing wasn’t going about doing stuff, even good stuff. It wasn’t being “in ministry,” and it wasn’t taking care of people. The “one thing” was being with Jesus—simply and profoundly for the purpose of experiencing His presence. Not for the purpose of toiling in intercessory prayer. Not for the purpose of getting a prayer answered. But being in the presence of the One who did everything it took to have a relationship with me, all the way to the cross and beyond.
Just as a player like Kyrgios can approach a sport like tennis, conceding that he isn’t willing to give it his all, I have seen I can skip along in my relationship with Christ. At times I am okay with settling for a lackluster prayer and worship life so that I can move on to my day and schedule. I can mail in my time in the Word of God, just enough to feel good about asking God to bless me. I can point a person here or there to Christ, so as to keep at bay the Great Commission in my spirit. I can show up to whatever life brings each day and give “the old college try” to walk out my faith, but lack the passion that I truly believe my Heavenly Father purposes me to possess in Him. I can give just enough of myself to where I feel safe as a Christian, but still maintain a safe orbit from God that doesn’t require me to give Him all of me.
But that’s not what I want in my relationship with my Creator and Savior. And I don’t believe it’s what our Heavenly Father wants for any of us who walk in relationship with Him. He wants to bless us with Himself and to take us into great depths of experiencing His Spirit, for there is no greater joy. Indeed, nothing comes close to experiencing the fullness of the presence of God.
For some of us, including myself, it’s time to re-up and return to the passion of seeking Christ purely for the purpose of being with Him, in His presence. Let the prayer of my heart truly be as the psalmist once penned:
O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; in Your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.” (Psalm 63:1-5)
May it be true of me, Jesus.