A defiant Nick Kyrgios refused to apologise for spitting in the direction of a Wimbledon spectator at the end of a fiery first round match, justifying the controversial act by railing against the rise of trolling tennis fans in his post match press conference.
Kyrgios has copped a wave of backlash for his behavior during and immediately after his 3-6 6-1 7-5 6-7(3) 7-5 win over British wildcard Paul Jubb.
Apart from the spitting incident, the enigmatic Aussie also raged to the flesh umpire about a lineswoman who he accused of being a “snitch” for reporting him over the language he used when he was mumbling to himself early in the first set.
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He also questioned the eyesight of one of the lines judges and accused Jubb of yelling out during a point.
The performative sideshow overshadowed the match, which was a rollercoaster affair that Kyrgios never took full control of, despite showing glimpses of his superior ability over the course of their three hours and five minutes on court.
Kyrgios bristles at ‘snitch’ in Wimbledon stink
Speaking after the match in his press conference, an agitated Kyrgios defended his behavior.
He interjected when asked if he had spat in the direction of a spectator, saying: “Of one of the people disrespecting me, yes.”
Report: So that was deliberate?
Kyrgios: Yes. I would not be doing that to someone who was supporting me.
Report: And, I do believe you complained about those spectators to the umpire at the time and asked for them to be removed.
Kyrgios: Yes. Yup.
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Report: Would you have liked them to have responded to your request?
Kyrgios: Honestly, I’m OK with receiving a lot of it, but what I don’t understand is that as soon as I give it back – in Stuttgart I gave it back, I got a game penalty. And today, like as soon as I won the match I turned to him and I just… I’ve been dealing with hate and negativity for a long time, so I don’t feel like I owe that person anything. He literally came to the match to not even, like, not even support anyone really, it was more just to stir up and disrespect, and that’s fine, but if I give it back to you then that’s just how it is.
While Kyrgios was clear in his mind that his behavior was justified by provocation, his explanation was unconvincing to many.
Speaking to Stan Sport’s Grand Slam Daily after the match, an exasperated Kim Clijsters, who won four Grand Slam titles and climbed to world No.1, said it was another frustrating backwards step for a player whose talent is unquestioned.
Masur reacts to Kyrgios spit
“I had the feeling these last few months that he was kind of maturing and he was showing that in his tennis, he was improving, he was purely focused on his tennis,” Clijsters said.
“He feels like he’s being disrespected when he gets out there and it’s unfortunate that he takes it out like that, because he’s such a good player.
“If he could just focus on his tennis part and put his energy into playing better – because he looks fitter, he seems kind of like he’s a bit more switched on, tennis wise, but it’s so unfortunate and it’s obviously something that you don’ t do on a tennis court.”
Australian tennis great Wally Masur agreed, telling Grand Slam Daily “spitting on a tennis court does not look good”.
“I hope there’s no vision of me spitting on a tennis court back in the day, because it’s not a good look,” Masur added.
“I do remember Wimbledon one time having a sort of a mandate, no spitting please, but if it was in fact directed at someone, that’s not a good look at all and it’s something you would hope doesn’t happen again.”
While the unsavory finish to the match was almost universally panned, Masur and Todd Woodbridge both backed Kyrgios’ complaint with the “snitch” lineswoman who referred him to the umpire for a comment that was inaudible to the viewing public.
“I get where he’s coming from because you do mumble something to yourself at the back of the court, it’s a bit like being at school when you get dobbed in at school,” Masur said.
“It’s a bit like ‘Oh come on, give me a break’. I can see where he’s coming from because he was on edge and he was on edge because he was being pushed by his opponent.
“That is Nick, isn’t it? He looks for an outlet when he’s on edge, he doesn’t bottle up his emotions and get on with the job, ala Rafa Nadal for example. Most players are feeling a lot of tension and anxiety, Nick certainly expresses it.”
Masur concluded that while Kyrgios continued to be popular due in part to his showman theatrics, ultimately he needed to back it up with his performances and results.
“You look at Ille Nastase over the years, bad boy of tennis, you look at John McEnroe over the years, bad boy of tennis. The game seems to thrive on villains, and as I say, Nick’s got the tennis to back it up , he could have the results to back it up – and that’s pretty important too.”
Kyrgios will meet 26th seeded Serbian Filip Krajinović in his second round match on day four of the tournament, and will likely face world No.5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round, should he progress.
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