Nick Kyrgios has revealed he was driven into a dark place by “hate and racism” in tennis – and says he was "almost crucified" early in his career because of his personality.
The 26-year-old, who is playing at the Citi Open in Washington DC this week, is one of the most outspoken players on the ATP Tour and has often created headlines with his actions on the court, or his words off it.
Having seen Naomi Osaka praised for speaking about mental health issues, Kyrgios has revealed that he also struggled at times, especially when he was getting “absolutely hammered by the media” as an 18-year-old.
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“I feel like I'm just resilient. If someone is not as resilient as me mentally, the amount of hate I got, the amount of racism I got, the amount of bulls**t that I got from the tour, from fans, from everything, I could have been...
“I did fall into places where people like Naomi Osaka are now speaking about mental illness where I was going through, in my personal opinion, 20 times as bad. All they receive is good press. They don't really receive hateful messages. They don't really receive ridiculously historic fines for hitting balls out of the stadium or getting a code violation.
“I was dealing with, like, not even close to the amount of stuff that was going on. That's what I think. Instead of outcasting and almost crucifying a personality, you say, Okay, this guy is different, let's act a certain way, let's not treat him like a Roger Federer or like a Marin Cilic. He's his own person.
“I'm just saying this sport could have driven me into a place of dark, which it did for a bit, how mentally tough it was for 18, being one of the most well-known players in Australia, getting absolutely hammered by the media. It's not so easy.
Now I'm 26, I I'm old enough. I know it's all bulls**t. I feel like tennis really struggled embracing personalities earlier on in my career.
Kyrgios has played just five tournaments since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He made the third round at Wimbledon in his first event since February and reached the second round in Atlanta last week. While he hasn't yet achieved the success that some people might have expected of him, he believes he has been "pretty iconic".
“Deep down I know I’m great for the sport. You need personalities like that,” said Kyrgios, who won the most recent of his six career titles in Washington in 2019.
Tennis has really struggled in the past embracing people that do it differently. They’re starting to warm up to it. I’ve been the example that tennis needs to embrace personalities and to make everyone feel welcome.
“Feel like I’ve been pretty iconic in the sport in the sense of doing it my own way.”
Kyrgios cast doubt over his future in the sport by saying he feels like he is at a “weird” stage of his career.
He also says that he isn’t driven by winning more titles, even though he would relish the opportunity to face the likes of Novak Djokovic at the US Open later this month.
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“I wouldn't say that I'm like sleeping and dreaming about I can't wait to play this guy, I can't wait to get better tomorrow, I can't wait to get more topspin on my forehand. No, I don't have any desire to have that, which is impossible for tennis fans to believe.
“It's like, ‘how can this person not have any drive to verse someone or win Grand Slams?’
“That's not what I value. Like, I don't value that. Yeah, I'm not saying it wouldn't be nice for it to happen. I'd love to face Novak Djokovic at the US Open. He's arguably the greatest of all time. Of course, I want to go out there and have a chance, have a crack at him. It would be great to win the US Open.
“I'm not going to look back at my career and say, ‘oh, no, I didn't win one’. I'm not going to be disappointed if I lose a match. Like I said, I don't value wins on a tennis court as much as I value a healthy relationship with my girlfriend or my best friend, things that actually mean something to me.
“So I don't know. I just take it day by day honestly. Like, I don't know, like I'm that unpredictable that I might not - I don't know. I had a good practice today. I'm trying to manage my knee. Tomorrow I'll wake up, try to be positive and we'll see where it goes. If I think too far ahead, it's too complicated.”
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