For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

Nick Kyrgios says he loved watching Roger Federer as a child—and still does today. “I remember watching him play,” Kyrgios told reporters. “I still watch him a lot when I’m in my room doing nothing. I would just go on YouTube and watch him. I think he’s the greatest of all time. He’s the one role model I have, off the court as well, because of the way he carries himself, helping people.” – Matthew Cronin / September 2015

A Nick Kyrgios practice session is much like the ultra-talented Australian’s attitude during match play: consistently inconsistent. With no discernible routine, the 23-year-old is just as likely to be chatting on the sidelines or playing a friendly game of “Butts Up” as he is to be blasting groundstrokes with his hitting partner.

But there is one common thread: Kyrgios regularly has young players join him for a little practice of their own. Last summer he invited fans to come “chill and hit” during his Rogers Cup training blocks. At this year’s Australian Open, he brought a young cancer patient on court halfway through his allotted practice time, and spent the rest of it talking, signing autographs and hitting balls with the star-struck youngster.

“I’m not sure which of us had the better day,” Kyrgios wrote in Australia’s PlayersVoice.

Unlike the tennis world at large—the fans and media who eagerly await the day Kyrgios’ focus is as sharp as his forehand—children want very little from their hero beyond a smile, a signed ball and maybe a selfie or two.

“I love the feeling that a moment of my time can literally make a world of difference to the child,” says Kyrgios. “For that moment, all of their troubles are forgotten.”

Kyrgios’ work with children has given him a reason to persevere in a sport that he admits that he doesn’t particularly like. It’s why he has made charity a priority in his early 20s, when many players have yet to develop a philanthropic voice. His piece in PlayersVoice summed it up: “It’s a higher purpose than just collecting a paycheck.”


50 Years, 50 Heroes: 2015, Nick Kyrgios

50 Years, 50 Heroes: 2015, Nick Kyrgios

It was after a 2017 visit to a children’s hospital in France that Kyrgios kickstarted his dream to create a “safe space” where kids can play, eat and sleep. In early 2018, with the establishment of the NK Foundation, that dream took a step closer to reality.

“It’s all I’ve been thinking about outside of tennis,” Kyrgios wrote online.

Led by Kyrgios’ brother Christos, the NK Foundation is currently scouting locations for a multi-sport facility in Melbourne, Australia, geared toward assisting underprivileged youth. In the meantime, Kyrgios remains connected to the Australian community with various charitable partnerships, ranging from homeless aid to work with sick children.

Ranked as high as No. 13 in the world with wins over the sport’s best players, there are few who doubt that Kyrgios could be a future No. 1 if his often-injured body and complicated mind cooperate. Though he has talked freely about adjustments he needs to make on the court, including his need for a coach and a more intense training schedule, finding his purpose off the court has been an equally important piece of the Kyrgios puzzle.

“I want to leave something that has a made a big difference in people’s lives,” Kyrgios says, “far beyond just my career on the tennis court.”

He may be best known for being unpredictable and erratic. But when it comes to children, Kyrgios is as invested and consistent as they come.


50 Years, 50 Heroes: 2015, Nick Kyrgios

50 Years, 50 Heroes: 2015, Nick Kyrgios