Ease up on Kyrgios. We don’t know the full story

NICK Kyrgios is annoying - incredibly annoying.

Nick Kyrgios has become as famous for his outbursts as his undeniable talent. (Pic: Julian Smith)
Nick Kyrgios has become as famous for his outbursts as his undeniable talent. (Pic: Julian Smith)

He and his co-conspirator in bratty behaviour Bernard Tomic are the sport villains that Australians love to hate. Why? Because it's so easy.

Kyrgios, undoubtedly a talented tennis player, has sworn on court, smashed rackets, revealed that "he's bored" playing the game that earns him millions. On several occasions he has called for unnecessary medical breaks, simply given up, and has often shown little interest in competing against his opponent. And then there was the time when he asked an umpire, "Can you call time so I can finish this match and go home?".

It's so easy to hate on Kyrgios, but I'm going to suggest something: let's not do that.

Let's stop verbally bashing Kyrgios and admit that we're actually not in a position to know why he frequently decides to act like a toddler who's dropped his ice-cream cone.

We simply don't know why Kyrgios acts the way he does, in much the same way that we didn't know why John McEnroe acted the way he did in the 1980s or, up until recently, why Jelena Dokic acted the way she did during her career.

Damir Dokic was known for abusing his daughter Jelena on-court, but no one realised it was also occurring off-court. (Pic: Charles Fowler)
Damir Dokic was known for abusing his daughter Jelena on-court, but no one realised it was also occurring off-court. (Pic: Charles Fowler)

In a recent interview with BBC4 McEnroe went some way to explaining his infamous on-court behaviour by saying that in addition to growing up "in a family of yellers," there was "an intensity from him [McEnroe's father] and an expectation from my mum. I used to tell this story that my dad went to law school and finished second out of 450 people and my mum was like, 'why didn't you finish first?' So there was this expectation of success from a very young age. My mum and dad expected to do well."

Later on, when McEnroe was long gone from the courts, a young Dokic was a rising star in the game and had enormous public support behind her. She was seen as the prodigal refugee who made Australia home and represented her new country at tournaments across the world. She was the great hope of Australian women's tennis and Australians raised her as a goddess.

But then she appeared to fail to appreciate what she had been "given" and showcased her own version of bratty behaviour.

Now, of course, we know the real story; that Dokic was a teenage girl being systematically physically, emotionally and financially abused by her father and coach, Damir Dokic, who at the height of her career forced her to rescind her Australian citizenship and play for Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro).

Dokic's revelations - in her book Unbreakable, written with Sunday Telegraph journalist Jessica Halloran and released late last year - reframes her behaviour, and how it was perceived by the public all those years ago. It seems so unfair to think how this young woman felt, being abused by her father and also knowing that her adopted country had turned its back on her.

Through its current lens, it's possible that Kyrgios is the way he is because he's immature and fails to appreciate his good fortune and talent and makes a lot of crappy decisions. But maybe there's something going on behind the scenes that he's struggling with and it manifests in his behaviour in public. The fact is we don't know.

But knowing what we know now about Dokic, and even McEnroe, I find it difficult to witness the onslaught of criticism that seems to follow Kyrgios every time he breaks out into hysteria.

Instead of jumping to conclusions and social media pile-ons, let's take a step back. If Kyrgios chucks a wobbly, he's free to do that. There are people in international tennis who are already doubling down on him, including McEnroe - who recently labelled Kyrgios's repeated tantrums as a "black eye for the sport".

Holding someone to account is different to what is currently happening. Kyrgios should absolutely be held to account, but heaping abuse and nasty judgment isn't going to actually achieve anything.

Sure, he makes it extremely easy to dislike and write him off as a spoiled, petulant brat. Maybe there's good reason for his behaviour. Maybe there isn't. But throwing embers into the fire has never made a fire less hot.

John McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1980. (Pic: Steve Powell)
John McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1980. (Pic: Steve Powell)


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