‘Indefensible’: Kyrgios bites back over mental state
Nick Kyrgios has hit out at tennis legends and pundits less than an hour before the US Open got underway as he took exception to a TV segment discussing what to expect from him in the year's final grand slam.
Past players Jim Courier and Martina Navratilova talked about the Aussies tennis star's behaviour, raising the possibility his frequent on-court outbursts may be related to mental health issues, while respected journalist Jon Wertheim also weighed in.
The pundits shared their views on The Tennis Channel and Kyrgios hit back on Twitter, using an emoji to suggest they were "potatoes" - an insult he has used previously, notably when describing Australian Wimbledon winner Pat Cash during the major at the All England Club in July.
People that are irrelevant in my personal life are trying to make comments on my personal character. Well done 🥔’s https://t.co/1UHuQnaEwE— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) August 26, 2019
Kyrgios's response came minutes after he deleted an earlier tweet where he described the segment as "absolute rubbish" and the "worst content I've ever seen".
Four-time major winner Courier said while Kyrgios has played well to win titles in Mexico and Washington this year, his temper tantrums have posed serious questions about what's going on inside his head.
"He also continues to struggle emotionally and I think we need to spare a little bit of a thought for him," Courier said. "Definitely not condoning his behaviour - does he need some mental health help? Is it actually something that is medical? We don't know the answer to that.
"He's a guy who polarises and he can play some electric tennis but man it's been tough to watch at times."
Former world No. 1 and 18-time grand slam singles champion Navratilova was more scathing.
"There's no question he needs some help. That's definitely above our pay grade. Mentally, he needs some help," she said.
"I would like for him to do his talking with his racquet rather than breaking them and rather than with his mouth. He needs to start winning matches, then he can talk.
"We can't give a moral pass to someone just because they are potentially a great tennis player."
American reporter Wertheim said the contrast in how Kyrgios interacts with people off the court then loses his cool on it is a particularly jarring part of trying to understand the 24-year-old, calling his explosions "indefensible".
"There's a mental health component to this story that we need to be a bit cautious about," Wertheim said. "These are not conventional tantrums and I think it's been a real balance.
"There are some things he does that are very admirable, he breaks down the fourth wall, he's very fan friendly - this is not a typical jerk athlete but they're also absolutely indefensible moments."
Earlier this month Kyrgios was slapped with a $167,000 fine for his meltdown at the Cincinnati Masters, when he appeared to spit in the direction of chair umpire Fergus Murphy during a second-round defeat to Karen Khachanov.
Kyrgios took umbrage with Murphy, who he has previous history with, over his monitoring of the shot clock and berated the Irishman for most of the match.
He became obsessed with the issue, repeatedly calling Murphy a "potato" and labelling him a "disgrace" and the "worst ref in the world".
Kyrgios asked for a toilet break and left the court to smash two racquets in the players' tunnel and after the match called Murphy a "f***ing tool".
That spectacular outburst came after a blow-up at the Canadian Open, when Kyrgios spat the dummy because he wanted to wipe his sweat off with a plain, white towel rather than one of the tournament-issue towels.
At Wimbledon Kyrgios also blasted the chair umpire in his loss to Rafael Nadal for failing to do anything about the Spaniard taking too long to get ready between points.
Kyrgios will play unseeded American Steve Johnson on Wednesday (AEST) in the first round of the US Open, while fellow Aussie and World No. 2 Ash Barty starts her Flushing Meadows campaign against Kazakh Zarina Diyas on Centre Court today.