Nick Kyrgios is one of the most charismatic and engaging people in tennis and he’s been through dark times. He speaks his mind, and you always know where you stand with him. He is highly intelligent and will put you on the sport with his questioning. He does not suffer fools lightly and he is lightning fast with his one-liner responses and comments. The only other player his razor-sharp tongue can be compared to is John McEnroe.
A perfect case in point was at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Kyrgios was in a tense and exciting match. In the first row of the stands was actor Ben Stiller. People with the actor were taunting Kyrgios. “Are you good at tennis?” Kyrgios asked. “No. Then why are you speaking? Do I tell him how to act?” It certainly resulted in howls of laughter.
Kyrgios is an entertainer who has more talent than probably 97% of the tour. He’d likely put up a legitimate case for it to be higher.
“Look at the matches I played, it’s exciting, it’s focused, it’s still a bit different,” Kyrgios said. “It’s something I struggle to deal with, the balance I’ve always been like that since I was a kid. Matches were always a rollercoaster. I don’t know, I’m never going to be someone who goes out there and ticks all the boxes.
“I really try hard. It’s a struggle for me sometimes; some days to wake up and come to the courts or wake up and just not want to leave my room. I deal with normal human issues but I’m also just proud of myself that I go up there and keep my head down and I play well. It’s not easy to do week in and week out.”
The biggest thing for him is to find a balance. He makes it clear that he is “two very different people on the court, off the court”. His love of basketball is meditation for him. Recently in Sydney he jumped at the opportunity to play a basketball match for charity, and he was on the opposing side to the state leader for New South Wales who himself is a basketball tragic. Kyrgios ran rings around the Premier.
When he is on that court it’s freedom; nothing else enters him mind, not tennis, not relationships, nothing.
Not since McEnroe has a player so divided opinion on the tennis tour.
Kyrgios has had more than his fair share of negativity directed at him; justified at times, many other times not. It is not meant as an excuse for some of his behaviour but consider being in his position in the heat of battle with thousands of eyes boring down on you. It’s a cauldron. For sure other players handle similar situations differently but then everyone is different. There are short fuses and long fuses.
He is trying hard to handle situations on court when he is being taunted. The fans are looking for and wanting him to bite and to get a reaction and explosion. It’s a game for some spectators who ignore the fact there is another person in front of them, not some circus performer, not that they should be hounded either.
“It’s not always easy. It’s so accessible now to go on your phone, social media, Twitter, Instagram and just go to messages and comments and you see so much negativity. You may not take it in but subconsciously it’s still going into your brain and dealing with hecklers,” Kyrgios said.
“I deal with it all the time. People just think raising the finger, abusing someone or making racist comments is acceptable in this day and age and I just don’t think that’s acceptable at all. Now you just have to use it as motivation but that’s easier said than done. People talk s#*t about you and do bad things. They’re achieving nothing to what you’re achieving. You have to just try and brush it off and use it as motivation and cling onto the people around you that send you positive energy all the time.”
Despite trying desperately hard to be with those he is close to and the ones he loves, the impact of the negative material still led to mental health issues. It is something he is very open and frank about because he hopes speaking of his struggles will help others. Nick can relate to what Naomi Osaka went through and she continues to deal with ¬- the weight on her shoulders, millions of people looking to her which is offset by the vocal haters.
He responds graphically when asked how serious his issues were.
“It was very serious, to the point of self-harm and it’s not okay,” he said firmly but with a deft tone in his voice. “I guess I pushed everyone that cared about me away and I wasn’t communicating, and I just shut down real life and I was trying to handle and tackle my problems head-on.
“I was abusing alcohol a lot, drugs and that spiralled out of control. Now I barely drink – I literally have a glass of wine at dinner. That was the initial kind of thing I had to clean up a little bit and then build my relationship back with my family and get into healthier habits like the basics; like diet, getting good sleep, trying to train a little bit more and that was it. I think Covid helped me a lot with that.”
END OF PART 1