Nick Kyrgios lashed out when questioned about a frustration-fueled fling of his racquet that sent a ballboy ducking for cover on Thursday after the Australian’s crushing loss to Rafael Nadal at the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters.
Kyrgios insisted the ugly incident was barely worthy of comment, and not on the scale, for example, of ATP colleague Alexander Zverev’s meltdown in Mexico, that saw the German fined $40,000 for bashing an umpire’s chair with his racquet.
“Did I throw my racquet anywhere near him (the ballboy) originally,” Kyrgios said. “It landed a meter from my foot and skidded and nearly hit him.
“I’m human. Things happen like that. It was an accident. It most definitely wasn’t like Zverev. It was a complete accident. I didn’t hit him, thankfully. It wasn’t my intention.
“So, thankfully, he’s OK.”
Nadal and Kyrgios had already shaken hands, and the Spaniard didn’t see him throw the racquet after the match.
“I think Nick had a great attitude during the whole match in terms of fighting spirit, and of course he has his personality, his character,” Nadal said. “Sometimes he does things that I don’t like, but I respect because of different character, different kind of points of view, and different kind of education.”
Kyrgios would have preferred to focus on the sometimes outstanding play that had 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in trouble several times in the 7-6 (7/0), 5-7, 6-4 defeat.
He was two points away from pocketing the first set, and he had two chances for an early break in the third set before succumbing in a match that saw Kyrgios take out his frustrations on himself, the chair umpire and even actor Ben Stiller who was sitting courtside.
“This one hurts, because I know that no matches that I played before this are going to get talked about, and it’s been the story of my career,” said Kyrgios.
“I played three bloody good matches,” added the Australian, who hadn’t dropped a set before the quarters and saw off eighth-seeded Casper Ruud in the third round before getting a walkover into the final eight.
“I beat one of the guys that had like nearly 60 wins last year and no one remembered that. And everyone will just remember that time where Kyrgios lost to Rafa at Indian Wells or the time that he threw the racquet.
“People like you spoil sport,” he sniped at a reporter with the temerity to ask about his petulant post-match demonstration.
– ‘Be quiet’ –
“It’s not fair, but at the same time that’s just the type of personality I am to the sport,” he added.
But Kyrgios’s bad-boy reputation hasn’t come from nowhere.
Although he distanced himself from Zverev, who also received an eight-week suspended ban from the ATP, Kyrgios himself received a 16-week suspended ban after verbally attacking an umpire and smashing two racquets at the Cincinnati Masters in 2019.
In January his run to the Australian Open men’s doubles title with compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis was marked by Kyrgios’s racquet-smashing, finger-flipping performance in a semi-final win.
Kyrgios insisted that the intense atmosphere of the match on the massive Stadium Court at Indian Wells was “amazing.”
He said he was pleased to play the role of villain or underdog, but as he did in Melbourne he railed repeatedly at umpire Carlos Bernardes for failing to control disruptive spectators who shouted and screamed at inappropriate times.
Kyrgios said he thought fan behavior — not just in tennis but in all sports — was getting worse.
“I think it’s just this generation,” the 26-year-old said. “Everyone feels like their opinion is valid. Like, when you’re a spectator and you’re watching professionals play tennis, you should just be quiet.”