On Wednesday, during his second round encounter with third seed Stan Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios took a step he should not have taken.
Angry with a complaint made by the Swiss regarding his time for serving (he was going so fast that the ball kids were not even back in their position), Kyrgios exchanged words with his rival (who also has quite a temper at times on court) and said something which he thought was out of earshot (so to speak) of the microphone: “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend.”
The remark was not heard on court, but was caught by those watching on TV and online, and was quick to set the social media aflame.
Questioned about it by Sportsnet after the match, which he won when his rival retired in the third set due to a back issue, the Aussie said that it had been said in the heat of the moment, because Wawrinka was arguing too much.
But the deed was done.
When meeting the press after the match, Wawrinka mentioned having confronted Kyrgios in the locker room so he could have an explanation about his behaviour and that he hoped the ATP would take exemplary measures to punish the 20-year-old. And he was heard.
Early on Thursday morning, the ATP announced that Kyrgios had received a fine of an amount yet unspecified, pending notification to the player. A couple of hours later, the amount was announced: Kyrgios received the maximum on site $10,000 fine for his comments towards Wawrinka, but the investigation was still ongoing, a process which led to the hot-headed Aussie to receive an additional $2,500 fine for a verbal abuse to a ball kid, and a Notice of Investigation:
“The ATP has announced that Nick Kyrgios has been fined the on-site maximum of US$10,000 for an insulting comment he made to Stan Wawrinka during their second-round match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada.
“Following a review of video from the match the ATP has also issued an additional fine of US$2,500 for Unsportsmanlike Conduct related to a comment made to a ball person during the match.
“In addition, Kyrgios has been served with a “Notice of Investigation” which begins a process to determine if his actions also constitute a violation of the Player Major Offence provisions set forth under “Aggravated Behavior” or “Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game.”
“That investigation opens up the possibility of further penalties which could include additional monetary fines and/or suspension from ATP events.”
– ATP press release
A high price to pay with his peers
On Thursday, Kyrgios has issued an apology for his behaviour via his social networks:
Regardless of his apology, the Aussie has paid the price for his behaviour with the Montreal fans, who copiously booed him when he entered the court to face John Isner, to whom he lost 7-5, 6-3 in the round of 16. A crowd reaction he was prepared for. “It was something I was sort of expecting”, declared Kyrgios after the match. “But I’m not going to take any credit away from John. I thought he served unbelievable again. He served really well against me in Madrid earlier in the year. That’s the best part of his game. He was just too good today.”
However, the crowd and the fines are a small price to pay in comparison to what his actions generated from the locker room. From Magnus Norman’s to Stan Wawrinka’s declarations, other players and coaches were quick to react.
World number one Novak Djokovic was diplomatic, but firm. “It’s very important to keep the fairness of the sport”, said the Serbian to the press. “I’m not one who should judge the reaction, but in my opinion it was completely unnecessary to comment something like that. So I think he was fined. I think it’s official. He deserved it. I think he’s going to learn a lesson in a hard way. Hopefully this won’t happen to him anymore. I understand that every player goes through a certain tantrums, emotional ups and downs during the match. In a big fight and at this level, I understand. But it’s not, I would say, fair, and there’s no excuse of directing your tantrums to your opponent, especially to somebody that is not even there.”
He later added: “He’s young. He just started playing professional tennis recently. He’s definitely one of the players that everybody’s looking up to. His quality of tennis is really remarkable for his age. He’s doing very well. Played quarters of Wimbledon last year. From the tennis perspective, I’m sure that he’s right at the top of the rising tennis stars. He’s got his own character, his own personality. This is individual sport. You’ve got to accept that. Again, I don’t know what kind of reputation goes around. But for me it’s important being there for now over a decade that at least there is a respect, you know, between the players and towards the sport as well. I think that’s something that he’s got to learn, you know, how to deal with that. Other than that, I think he’s a good guy. I never had any problems with him personally. Off the court we had nice chats, practiced with each other. Some players have problems to control themselves on the court. Sometimes when you go through the emotional challenges, it slips out of your mouth. But, again, there’s no excuse for what he has said yesterday.”
The good guy part was also at the root of what Andy Murray raised when discussing the matter. “It’s unfortunate”, said the second seed. “I don’t want to say anything bad about Nick because, you know, I like him. Most important thing is that he learns from what happened yesterday. There’s obviously certain things in tennis, in our sport. In other sports that sort of thing happens more often than we imagine, in a lot of team sports especially. But in tennis, yeah, there’s certain things you shouldn’t do. That was probably one of them.
“Hopefully he learns from it. But Nick, he’s not all bad. People want to make it like he is. But he’s a young guy who’s, you know, growing up in the spotlight. There’s been a lot of negativity towards him over the last few months. That isn’t easy to deal with.
“I think that it’s important that he obviously learns from the mistake, but everyone just gives him a little bit of a break as well. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just made some mistakes. He’ll learn from them and become a better person, I’m sure.”
Rafael Nadal was, probably, the most direct in exposing the consequences of Kyrgios’s actions: “I don’t understand very well why he say that, you know. Is completely unnecessary. Is out of what a tennis match should be, no?
“The world of tennis, I think we should represent and we should be an example for new generation of kids. So is good that the players who are in front of the TV, the players who are in front of a lot of audience, especially in front of kids, because the rest it’s fine, but especially the kids, we show the good values, the good example.
“Obviously yesterday was not one of these moments, no? So that’s it. That’s my thoughts.
“It’s obvious that when you are in the tour, you are in the locker room every single week of the year, you are with colleagues around, and the life is much easier and more happier if you have a good relationship with the rest of the colleagues, the rest of the players.
“What happened yesterday doesn’t help to that.”
Regarding the Aussie’s age, the world number 9 brushed the idea aside: “We can accept, I think everybody can have mistakes. Age is not an excuse. We are here. Most of the players who are around the tour started very early, no? I started on the tour with 16, Novak probably with 17, Andy with 18. The age is not an excuse at all, no. Is just about respect.
“He was wrong yesterday. I hope he’s able to recognize his mistake and I hope he’s able to change his attitude that sometimes in the court is necessary to change if you want to be in the tour, that the people respect you not as a very good tennis player. For sure he’s a fantastic tennis player, and possibly he can be No. 1 in the future. But as I always said, no, you can be as good tennis player as you want, but most important thing in this life is the human person, no, the respect. You have to go on court and you have to do the right things. Yesterday he was not doing the right things. As I say before, he has time to improve that attitude. I am sure that he’s smart and he will do it.”
However, the biggest condemnation came from the ATP Players’ Council: “On behalf of the players’ council, we would like to publicly condemn Nick Kyrgios’s comments towards Stan Wawrinka. Comments like these have no place in our sport and have been met with endless criticism from the larger player body. Nick’s comments were disrespectful not only to Stan, but to the other players referenced. We understand that sometimes things are said mistakenly under tense circumstances, but Nick’s comments are indefensible. We fully support the ATP in their fining of Kyrgios and anxiously await for further repercussions for him once a more complete investigation has been done.”
One thing is certain: we have not heard the last on this matter.