Nick Kyrgios, the Australian tennis star and hothead who was suspended and fined last year for blatantly tanking a match in China and once received sanction for suggesting to his opponent that his buddy had hooked up with his girlfriend, blew a two-set lead and a match point at the Australian Open on Wednesday and was ripped by Eurosport commentator John McEnroe for not trying and leaving “a black eye for the sport.”
In his press conference after the loss to Andreas Seppi, Kyrgios was asked about McEnroe’s comments because you’ve got to stoke a fire to keep it alive. Kyrgios didn’t disappoint, sarcastically saying McEnroe “knows everything” and then repeatedly responding to questions by suggesting the reporter ask McEnroe. “”He knows everything,” the 21-year-old said at one point.
The polarizing Kyrgios was out to an easy two-set lead on his Italian opponent in the second round of his home Grand Slam but lost the third set and then, after getting broken to open the fourth, appeared to go into shutdown mode, which upset the fiery McEnroe.
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“Even I’m at a loss for words. Overall I would call it a damn shame because I think he’s the most talented guy in the world [at] 21 and under — maybe even at 29 and under. He could be the best player in the world, but mentally he’s No. 200 in the world, and I think at critical moments it showed.”
Kyrgios battled back in the fifth, playing with passion before eventually losing 10-8.
Though other top players (Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray most notably) can go through funks during matches, Kyrgios shuts down almost completely and then can’t get back in his groove. Youth has been the excuse for Kyrgios ever since he burst onto the scene with an upset of Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014, but he’s now 21, past the point of using his age to cover for his childishness. But in tennis, the lone sport where a player is left alone with nothing but his thoughts, experience is a virtue. It took Djokovic until he was 24 to shake the notion that he was immature on the court. Murray didn’t win a Slam until he was 25. Things take longer. Kyrgios should do what he wants, but if what he wants is to be a great tennis player, then something has to change.
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Kyrgios won’t get any benefit of the doubt though and deserves none either. His petulant responses to questions from (admittedly hostile) Aussie media do nothing to change that fact. When McEnroe’s comments were first brought up, Kyrgios tried to play it cool like he was above it all. Cool guy Nick.
“I mean, John McEnroe, was it John McEnroe? Good on him. Great career. Good on him.”
Much better than you ever will, Nick – unless you get your head on right.