Nick Kyrgios: How Australia’s tennis ‘bad boy’ is changing perceptions

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Whether it be “tanking a few matches here and there”, abusing chair umpires and occasionally spitting at them, on court blow ups, unleashing verbal attacks on the likes of Djokovic and Nadal on a popular tennis podcast, staying out drinking with journalists the night before a Wimbledon game on centre court, losing because there was “a really hot chick in the crowd”, or telling Stan Wawrinka “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend”, there’s not much bad news Nick Kyrgios hasn’t been involved in.


Kyrgios wasn't foreign to an on-court spat



The antics have led to greats such as Martina Navratilova and Jim Courier speculating about his mental health.


On The Tennis Channel, Navratilova stated, “I think there is no question he needs some help.”

Courier also contributing “Does he need some mental health help? Is it something that is medical? We don’t know the answer to that.”


Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian tennis great Pat Rafter questioned whether a suspension was the only option to pull Kyrgios in line, “Whatever they have done hasn’t worked so far, so maybe a suspension is the only answer. I’m not sure he’s learned anything from any of the things that have gone on.”


After a huge tantrum at the 2019 Cincinatti Masters, Kyrgios was fined a whopping $US113 000, believed to take his career total fines to $US243 866.


The outburst also resulted in a suspended 16 week ban, for which he had to successfully navigate a six month probation period.


For the above mentioned incident with Stan Wawrinka, Kyrgios got through a six month probation period unscathed to avoid a 28 day ban.


He was also handed an eight week suspension – reduced to three after he received psychological counselling – for tanking a singles clash at the Shanghai Masters.


Since the beginning of 2020 however, Kyrgios has started to appear in the headlines for the right reasons.


A Kyrgios inspired exhibition tournament featuring the likes of Serena Williams, raised an astounding $AU4.8 million for the bushfire relief fund.


That barely the tip of the iceberg in his fundraising efforts. He pledged $200 for every ace he hit throughout the summer, that figure was matched by Grill’d Burgers, whilst SportsBet also contributed $1000 for every ace he hit.


Kyrgios birthed a powerful movement; similar pledges, donations and auctions of memorabilia flowed from sports people and companies all over the world and into helping those hit hardest by our devastating bushfires.


Months later, in crisis again, Kyrgios hasn’t been afraid to stand up to the big dogs of tennis and hold the irresponsible accountable.


World number one Novak Djokovic recently tried to host the disaster destined Adria Tour tennis events mid-pandemic. These events had no social distancing with players hugging at the nets and later partying with fans. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troiki all inevitably tested positive for COVID-19 after the event.


Djokovic 'following medical advice' at his Adria Tour



After Borna Coric announced he had contracted Covid-19 via Twitter, Kyrgios labelled it a “boneheaded decision to go ahead with the exhibition”


He later retweeted a video of the players partying which included, “Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ – this takes the cake.”


This only the very beginning of his Twitter rants that won him plenty of admirers and put the world’s best – who were happily flaunting medical advice – and their defendants back in their place.


World number seven Alexander Zverev who took part in the Adria Tour and was seen partying, released a statement soon after, “I deeply apologise to anyone that I have potentially put at risk by playing this tour, I will proceed to follow the self-isolating guidelines advised by our doctors. As an added precaution my team and I will continue with regular testing.”


Zverev 'self-isolating' days later


Less than a week later, Zverev appeared on a German fashion designer’s Instagram story partying again. To which Kyrgios released a video, “Sascha Zverev again, man. Again, again, how selfish can you be?... If you have the audacity to f****** put out a tweet that you made your management write on your behalf, saying you’re going to self-isolate for 14 days, and apologising to the f****** general public about putting their health at risk, at least have the audacity to stay inside for 14 days… Jesus, man. Pissing me off. This tennis world is pissing me off, seriously. How selfish can you all get?”


This prompted former world number one Boris Becker to get involved in the feud, tweeting, “Don’t like no rats ! Anybody telling off fellow sportsman/women is no friend of mine! Look yourself in the mirror and think your better than us…”


To which Kyrgios responded, “For goodness sake Boris, I’m not competing or trying to throw anyone under the bus. It’s a global pandemic and if someone is as idiotic as Alex to do what he has done, I’ll call him out for it. Simple.”


Becker replied, “We all live in a pandemic called Covid_19 ! It’s terrible and it killed so many lives…we should protect our families/loved one and follow the guidelines but I still don’t like rats”


Further provoking Kyrgios, “Rats? For holding someone accountable? Strange way to think of it champion, I’m just looking out for people. WHEN my family and families all over the world have respectfully done the right thing. And you have a goose waving his arms around, imma say something.”


Then adding, “@TheBorisBecker is a bigger doughnut than I thought. Can hit a volley, obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed though.”


Leading Becker to retorting, “Your funny guy …how is it down under? Respect all the guidelines?”


Kyrgios clapped back, “Haha nah bro I’m good, don’t act like you’re my friend now because you got sat down.”


Acknowledging the faults in his logic, Becker took a new tact, “I really would like to se @NickKyrgios fulfill his potential and win a grandslam! He would be an incredible role model for for the youth of the world addressing the issues of equality/race/hunger! Man up buddy and deliver!”


With an unplayable forehand down the line, Kyrgios finished him off, “Why are you now talking about tennis? It has nothing to do with tennis? How about the dude who you are defending mans up and gives us some sort of explanation? Not another average management apology.”


In an interview with Tiroler Tageszeitung, Dominic Thiem called Kyrgios’ criticism “cheap”, stating “Kyrgios did a lot of mistakes himself. It would be better for him to come clean instead of criticising others.” Thiem also considered it “unlucky” that Zverev was caught partying.


Kyrgios tweeted his response, “what are you talking about @ThiemDomi ? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here and there? Which everyone does? None of you even have the intellectual ability to understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable”


“This just shows what a joke @ThiemDomi @AlexZverev & @DjokerNole think this is, 2 of them partying like potato’s during a global pandemic. People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake’, these guys are the ‘top’ of our sport. SMH”


Everyone matures at different stages of their life. At 25 years of age, maybe Nick Kyrgios has matured, or realised he can put his notoriety to good use. It could translate to better performances on the court, but this isn’t about tennis.


2020 has been a strange year, and ever since the turn of the decade Kyrgios has done plenty of good, and no bad.


Whilst he will never be a ‘golden boy’ like Lleyton Hewitt, he’s fast becoming someone us Australians can be proud to claim as our own.

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