When it comes to the tennis superstar that is Nick Kyrgios, spectators know that watching him play is an experience akin to theatre. Aside from the flourishes with the racquet that make him one of the strongest talents to have come out of Australia in recent years, there’s also the tantrums, fits of rage, and euphoric celebrations that will have even his opponent’s supporters on their feet and questioning their allegiance. To watch Kyrgios play is to see that our sporting stars are all too human. Where for years we’ve come to expect sports stars to divorce themselves from emotion, Kyrgios lets his bubble to the surface and overflow with oftentimes greatly entertaining results.
For some, such actions will always be condemned and for those at Wimbledon, getting used to the firepower and heightened emotions of Nick Kyrgios is a big adjustment. Wimbledon officials are already watching the star closely, after his first-round victory against Britain’s Paul Jubb saw him spit towards a spectator and call a line judge a “snitch”.
According to Kyrgios, there were mitigating circumstances for his behaviour after he accused the umpire of ignoring his pleas for an abusive spectator to be ejected. As Kyrgios suggests, social media has created a new breed of supporter that thrives on filming themselves abusing sports stars and posting it to platforms like Instagram for likes and viral reactions. Speaking about his victory, Kyrgios said he ended up spitting at the spectator because they had constantly “disrespected” him.
“It’s happening more and more in sport,” he said. “I don’t go into Argos and just start smashing someone at the counter when they’re doing their job. I’ve never done that in my life. I just think spectators think there’s just no line there any more. They can just say something and they film it and then they laugh about it.”
“Someone just yelled out I was shit in the crowd today. Is that normal? No. But it’s happening over and over again. I think it’s a level of respect. Why do they feel that’s acceptable?”
While the young tennis player might have a point, many have been quick to voice their concern over such behaviour, claiming Kyrgios is a hypocrite after he himself abused several officials during the three-hour match. Along with calling one line judge a “snitch” when she went to the umpire at 3-2 in the first set, he also repeatedly told another to get off the court after making a mistake.
Speaking about his irritation at the line judges and their rogue calls, Kyrgios explained: “These people are in their 90s, they can’t see the ball.” Wimbledon has since confirmed that they will be speaking with the umpire and reviewing a transcript of Kyrgios’ press conference before deciding what punishment to hand down and if he will pay an elaborate fine as a result of his behaviour.
Current ruling for grand slam tournaments stipulate that players must not “at any time directly or indirectly verbally abuse any official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site.”
Kyrgios said he felt justified in his comments to the officials during the match, particularly as he receives more abuse on social media than any of the officials. “I just know factually, like if we go through my Instagram compared to an umpire’s it’s disgusting some of the things I deal with. Like my brother has alopecia and they joke about him being a cancer patient. I doubt the umpires are dealing with that. It goes deeper than that because if I lose a tennis match and it comes down to a call, they’re not getting abused on social media. I have to deal with it,” he said.