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Every sport loves the bad boys who do things differently and buck the establishment. Nick Kyrgios has been the centre of several controversies, from cupping his ears at the crowd, remonstrating with referees, hitting back-to-back aces, and serving underhand. 

This is the paradoxical reality of being one of the most misunderstood characters in tennis and top-level sports. This is the story of Nick Kyrgios.

Nick Kyrgios and The Bad Boys of Tennis 

Nick Kyrgios is the guy Tennis loves to hate. He is among the youngest tennis players to have earned the title ‘The Bad Boy of Tennis‘ in recent years. His career has been filled with headlines both on and off the court. 

Nick Kyrgios arguing with official

Source: WWOS

Compilations of him raging at umpires and remonstrating on the biggest stages make for great YouTube compilations. But beyond the “Bad Boy” persona is a mercurial talent yearning for approval in a sport that struggles to appreciate the genius of mavericks.

But he is not the first in the long line of controversial players.

American seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe, nicknamed “Superbrat” by the British press, is known for his emotional upsurges that contrasted with his incredible play on the court. McEnroe is famous for his “you cannot be serious” plea to umpires when challenging their decisions. 

McEnroe arguing with official

Source: Belfast Telegraph

In 1977, in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, Ilie “Nasty” Nastase hit referee Jeremy Shales for calling him “Nastase”, saying: “You don’t call me Nastase, you call me Mr Nastase.” 

Two years later, Nastase was playing young McEnroe at the US Open when the match descended into chaos. Nastase was disqualified for a series of infractions, including flicking a referee’s hat and taking too long between points. 

The match was called off after the crowd stormed the court, throwing objects, and officials took an extraordinary step to resume the match. McEnroe won in four sets.

Other notable names include eight-time men’s Grand Slam champion, Jimmy Connors and Daniel Koeller.

The Lows Of Kyrgios’ Career

Nick Kyrgios’ career portrays an interplay of lows and highs. This is evident in how his rage and tempestuous behaviour on the pitch juxtapose his existing friendships and charitable engagements. 

Let’s look at some of his low moments:

Suspensions and Fines

Kyrgios made headlines in 2016 when he called out the music he said he was hearing from the crowd at the Australian Open. In 2017, he broke two rackets at the French Open and demanded a beer. 

In 2019, he got into a row over a towel at the Rogers Cup and refused to put it on until the officials brought it to him. He then stayed in the match for 20 minutes, which is how long it took the officials to bring the towels to Kyrgios. 

Nick Kyrgios smashing a racket

Source: News24

The numbers crunchers say he’s got more fines than anyone else in tennis history. He’s admitted to paying over $800,000 in fines so far.

During the Laver Cup in 2019 against Roger Federer, Kyrgios blamed a “hot chick” in the crowd for making him lose focus and consequently losing the game.

Here is Kyrgios’ record of infractions, fines, and outbursts: 

  • abuse against officials, including the umpire, line judge and ball kids; 
  • name-calling, swearing, or throwing objects at officials, intentionally or unintentionally;
  • aiming the ball at Rafa Nadal at the 2019 Wimbledon; 
  • engaging in verbal confrontations with opponents and insulting them during interviews;
  • hitting tennis balls and rackets, as well as folding chairs on the tennis court; 
  • walking off the court when he felt like it; 
  • strutting out mid-match to smash rackets;
  • intentionally sabotaging games that did not go his way; 
  • verbal altercations with hecklers and Ben Stiller, as well as frustration over seemingly insignificant incidents. 


Kyrgios has, as is the case with many athletes, sustained various injuries throughout his career, resulting in him missing tournaments and impacting his overall performance.

In some cases, these injuries often arrive at the cusp of majors, especially when Kyrgios seems to be enjoying epic runs of form.

Lack of Motivation

Some critics and fans have accused Kyrgios of losing focus and motivation during matches, resulting in inconsistent results.

In some quarters, he is touted as one of the best of the new generation. This might be true, seeing that Kyrgios is still 28. But when you see 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz putting on a masterpiece against Djokovic, you can’t help but wonder if time is running out for Kyrgios.

Court cases

In 2021, Nick Kyrgios shoved his then-girlfriend, Chiara Passari, onto the pavement. Although the couple reconciled and the court acquitted Nick Kyrgios, this incident will forever tarnish his public perception.

The Highs Of Kyrgios’ Career

While he has faced challenges and controversies, he has also achieved success and entertained fans with his remarkable performances. Here are some of the highlights from his career:

Wimbledon 2014

Kyrgios made a big splash on the tennis world scene at Wimbledon in 2014 when he knocked out the then-world number one Rafael Nadal in the fourth round. He was the youngest player to beat a world number one at a Grand Slam tournament since 2005, and it was a huge upset that cemented his status as a rising star.

Kyrgios beats Rafael Nadal

Source: Marca

Australian Open Performances 

The Australian Open has been a regular destination for Nick Kyrgios, who has established himself as a fan favourite due to his fiery playstyle and the strong support of the home crowd. He reached the Australian Open quarterfinals in both 2015 and 2020.

Acapulco Title

In 2019, he went on to win the ATP 500 title at Acapulco in Mexico, where he knocked out the top players in the process, further cementing his status as one of the most talented and unpredictable players on the tour.

Wins over Top Players

Kyrgios has established a reputation for overcoming some of the world’s leading players when he is at his peak. As mentioned earlier, he beat Nadal in 2014. Other notable scalps include Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. He is the first person to beat The Big Three on his first try.

44 Aces

Kyrgios holds the Australian record for the most aces in a 3-set match, racking up 44 aces in a 7-6 5-7 7-6 victory over Ryan Harrison in Brisbane. This feat is just one ace shy of tying the world record.

Laver Cup Success

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has featured prominently in Team World’s Laver Cup campaign, a biennial team tennis competition. He has produced remarkable results, helping Team World to triumph over Team Europe.

The “Special Ks” Duo

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios, two of the most charismatic players in the sport, have long been together as a pair.

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis celebrating together

Source: Herald Sun

Kokkinakis’ close relationship with Kyrgios soon paid dividends in the doubles game. The two young Australians achieved their first senior doubles title together in 2013, winning the Wimbledon boys’ doubles. 

Their unmatched chemistry and endeared them to fans worldwide, birthing the name the “Special Ks”. 

Who is the Real Nick Kyrgios?

Nick Kyrgios has made it known that he is struggling with mental health issues. The demands of professional tennis, as well as the public’s attention, can have a detrimental effect on any athlete.

While some have the mental fortitude to compartmentalise, those who wear their bleeding hearts on their sleeves often explode in public view. We’ve seen something similar with Justin Fashanu.

And what does the audience see? A spoiled brat smashing his toys. But we forget that these players are not cyborgs. Yes, they can be primadonnas, but it doesn’t take away from the crippling pressure of being alone at Centre Court in front of the world.

Nick Kyrgios shouting

Source: Outlook India

A 2015 report quoted the tennis player admitting that he was pushed into the sport by his parents as a teen: “I don’t really like the sport of tennis that much,” he disclosed, adding that on the tennis court, he likes to play for the crowd “to put on a bit of a show”.

Kyrgios’ off-court antics aside, he has also made a name for himself by being a philanthropist. He has used his platform to promote charitable causes and to help those in need and even delivered food to people’s doorsteps during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This came just a couple of months after he donated money to aid during the bushfires in Australia for each ace he played. Kyrgios broke down in tears when discussing the fires, revealing that he had found a “purpose” in creating a facility for underprivileged children.

This could suggest a complex interplay of empathy and compassion in his provocative on-pitch personality. But we can never say for sure.

What’s Next For Nick Kyrgios?

Some would argue that the sport is dull without him, while others would argue that his antics are dull. However, one thing is indisputable – Nick is among the most captivating figures in men’s tennis. 

For me, Nick Kyrgios is just a maverick trying to find his place in a sport that frowns at people like him. Maybe he lets the emotions get the best of him. Maybe he just doesn’t cut it to compete with the likes of Murray or Medvedev.

Nick Kyrgios’ 2023 season has been pretty much a washout so far, with the Australian having to sit out most of the season due to a meniscus tear. He was supposed to play his first tournament of the season at Wimbledon, where he was runner-up last year, but he pulled out a day before the tournament started, citing a wrist injury. 

Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon

Source: ATP Tour

Following his withdrawal from Wimbledon, the timeline for Kyrgios’ return to action is uncertain. It is likely that he will take an additional month off and will return to action in a number of tournaments prior to the US Open.

The best of Kyrgios might still be on the way. Or his run as one of the “Special Ks” will end up being the peak of his career. 

But one thing is certain: Nick Kyrgios will remain a gym class reject who excelled in a sport he never loved. To some, he will be a maverick entertainer. To others, he will always be a tragic waste of talent.

Who wrote this?

Desmond is a lawyer whose first love is the young boy from Rosario. He loves writing about the legal profession and sports.

Desmond Otikpa
Desmond is a lawyer whose first love is the young boy from Rosario. He loves writing about the legal profession and sports.

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