He claims he is a changed man with a new “purpose” in life to help kids but tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios sparked more controversy when he quit mid match at the Shanghai Masters.
A year after being handed an eight-week ban and fined about $40,000 by the ATP for not giving his “best efforts” — or in tennis terms, “tanking” — at the same tournament, the Australian baffled spectators by walking off court Tuesday after losing the first set 7-6 to Steve Johnson.
Kyrgios had been handed a point penalty for an audible obscenity in the tiebreak and left the steamy arena moments later.
It officially went down as a retirement although no reason was immediately given.
Hours later Kyrgios provided an explanation on Twitter, saying he was struggling with a stomach bug and shoulder injury. He included a hashtag of ‘sorry.’
“Once I lost the first set I was just not strong enough to continue because I’ve not eaten much the past 24 hours,” Sunday’s China Open finalist said.
“I’m gutted to be honest as I was keen to keep the good momentum that I built in Beijing going and finish the year strong,” he added. “I’ll do what I can to make sure I do.”
He has yet to decide if he’ll contest his second-round doubles match with Lucas Pouille.
The first-round singles incident occurred after Kyrgios claimed earlier this week that he had found his “purpose” in life — to help underprivileged children.
At the same time, the 22-year-old said he’d discovered a new-found motivation for tennis that “wasn’t there before.”
“On those days when I’m missing home and feel like being anywhere else other than an overseas tennis court, I know I’m representing something that’s bigger than my emotions on that day,” Kyrgios told the PlayersVoice, where he is a founding contributor.
Kyrgios’ ban 12 months ago following a match against Mischa Zverev came after he clinched the biggest title of his career in Tokyo. This time, his erratic behavior occurred after losing to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the finale in Beijing.
The so-called Asian swing in tennis comes near the end of the season, after all four of the grand slams have been played.
When the ATP took the unusual decision to ban Kyrgios last year, it said the suspension would be reduced to three weeks if Kyrgios consulted a sports psychologist or similar.
The former junior No. 1 apologized and said at the time: “The season has been a long one as I battled several injuries and other challenges towards the end of the summer. The Asian circuit was particularly tough after the long week and win in Tokyo and with the travel throughout the continent, my body finally just gave out in Shanghai both physically and mentally.
“This is no excuse, and I know very well that I need to apologize to the fans — in Shanghai and in other parts of the world — as well as the tournament organizers in Shanghai who do an amazing job.”
Kyrgios, however, was recently fined $5,500 for his behavior at the US Open, while he has collected fines in the past at Wimbledon and received a fine and 28-day ban for his lewd comments aimed at Stan Wawrinka’s girlfriend in 2015.
Helping underprivileged kids
Kyrgios, who took his career prize money tally to about $5.5 million by making the final in Beijing, told the PlayersVoice he plans to build a facility in Melbourne for underprivileged children.
He is looking for land in Melbourne as well as partners to assist in the project, which he hopes to have under way by the time the Australian Open in Melbourne rolls around in January.
The facility will house a tennis court, oval, basketball court — the Canberra native is a massive Boston Celtics fan who claims he likes basketball more than tennis — and sleeping facilities.
“For the first time, I feel like there is a reason for me to be doing what I’m doing,” Kyrgios said. “Tennis is a great life — we’re well paid and the perks are pretty good — but it can feel empty if you’re just doing it for the money.
“I know what it’s all for now. You’ve probably heard me say a few times over the years that I don’t want tennis badly enough. But when I’m working on the NK Foundation and our Melbourne facility, I cast my mind forward to all the disadvantaged kids I’ll be helping.
“I’m playing for them now.
“I love kids. I get more happiness from helping kids out and watching them succeed than I do from my own wins on the tennis tour. It’s always been that way.”
He added: “If my vision is realized, it’s my hope that I’ll be remembered for this more than anything I have done or will do on the tennis court.
“I’m going to be hands-on whenever I’m home. I’ll spend a few days catching up with everyone in Canberra and then I’ll drive to Melbourne to get stuck in at the facility.
“I’ll run tennis camps, shoot hoops, cook, clean-up … whatever is needed.
“I don’t reckon there can be anything better in life than giving kids a chance when they otherwise wouldn’t have had one.”