I think I have Nick Kyrgios figured out — he's really Benjamin Button.
The movie (The Strange Case of Benjamin Button) was indeed strange (it didn't seem to have a point), chronicling an individual who experienced reverse ageing — born as an old man, he grew shorter and smaller until he became a bottle-fed baby.
It explains Kyrgios perfectly. He's not really a 20-year-old tennis player with an enormous sense of entitlement and a bad case of runaway potty mouth who hasn't lived long enough to appreciate the difference between repartee and repulsiveness. He's really a cranky 70-year-old man on his way to reverting to full baby status where the only thing that comes out of his mouth is a squawk or vomit. Oh.
Well, it's either that or there is something wrong with the Kyrgios family ethos.
They have chosen to defend him by claiming opponent Stan Wawrinka criticised Kyrgios for faking injury in their match at Queen's, ahead of the Wimbledon tournament — where he was booed when the crowd thought he was tanking (not trying) in a match against Richard Gasquet. That led to a fiery press conference when Kyrgios denied it.
Kyrgios' mother Nill tweeted her son and Wawrinka had form at Queens. "Sledge for a sledge," she said, and was later quoted as saying, "It's not a nice thing to say, it's not, but you can't always cop it on the chin from other people without retaliating. If you give people lip, then you've got to receive some back."
She later deleted her twitter account after a huge backlash. Most pointed out Kyrgios wasn't just sledging Wawrinka (who left his wife earlier this year) but 19-year-old Croatian tennis starlet Donna Vekic, romantically linked with Wawrinka.
On Wednesday, during a second-round Rogers Cup match in Montreal, Kyrgios was recorded saying to Wawrinka: "[Australian player Thanasi] Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that, mate."
Said in private, that would be bad enough. Said in public, it exposes a 19-year-old woman yet to fully embark on her tennis career to the worst kind of male slut-shaming.
He may have sought to hurt Wawrinka but Vekic is the real victim. The sniggers and behind-the-hand, sotto voce remarks could haunt her for some time with who knows what effect on her game and career.
Some of the worst excesses of the Australian male — sexism, racism, macho posturing and an almost oblivious self-centredness - explain why some Ocker blokes might miss the fact Vekic's reputation has come out of this tawdry incident with some scars. But it's odd Mrs Kyrgios should only see it in the context of sledging, with no mention of the impact on the young woman.
There's more. Kyrgios' 27-year-old brother Christos was cut off during a Sydney radio interview, compounding the error. He, too, took up the cudgels on sledging, saying, "If you're going to come and openly ... it's not even sledging, that's openly slandering someone after a match then I guess you can expect a bit of sledging back when you play them next," Christos said on Triple M.
Co-host Matty Johns responded by saying, "I understand that, Christos. The difference here is he's dragged innocent parties into it. He's dragged young Kokkinakis into it and more to the point, Donna Vekic ..."
The older Kyrgios was then cut off, with the station explaining he had said something "pretty crook". Later Christos wrote on his Facebook page: "So just did a media interview for Nick. Said Donna obviously loved the 'kokk' they cut my interview and said it's the worst thing they have ever heard on air. Ah cheers."
With this kind of family support, it's a little easier to understand why Kyrgios may be like he is. Up to now, most of us have watched the tantrums, bad behaviour and gobby stuff and just chalked it up to another tennis bad boy yet to grow up.
There have been plenty of players who matured into decent individuals — like John McEnroe. An odious brat when he was dicing with Bjorn Borg, he matured and mellowed into a reasonable adult and certainly one of the finest television commentators in any sport. There were plenty of others — Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase, Lleyton Hewitt, even Andre Agassi. None strayed into quite such a murky area.
Still, it's all right — Nick Kyrgios has apologised. Booed as he entered the court for his third round match against John Isner, which he lost 7-5 6-3, he later declared the matter finished. "I mean, it's all cleared now," he said. "Obviously I apologised in public and privately as well. I've been fined. So everything is sort of put to bed now. I thought we could move on from it."
Bless — wonder if Vekic thinks she'll be able to move on. Kyrgios received a US$10,000 fine and didn't expect further punishment. "I got some sleep last night," he said.
Wonder if Vekic did. Still, no problem. If Kyrgios keeps on retro-ageing, he'll soon be expressing himself only by filling his nappy. Oh.