There are certain phrases you never expect to read in your standard tennis match report. It would be fair to say that "mimicking a sexual act with a water bottle" is one of those.

Except the match in question was played at London's Queens Club two weeks ago by Nick Kyrgios, in which case it all made perfect (non)sense.

I mean, how else would the vastly talented 23 year-old Australian warm up for Wimbledon than by bringing a plastic container to mock climax, an atrocity for which he was fined a whopping A$23,500.

In the four years since Kyrgios "burst on the scene" at Wimbledon by defeating world No 1 Rafael Nadal and reaching the quarter-finals, he has made such a habit of defying the sport's conventions — including the seemingly straightforward "no sex with hydration vessels" rule — that almost nothing surprises.

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Rather, Kyrgios has come to present a challenge for what modern tennis fans, and sports fans generally, expect and accept from athletes.

In an era where the line between the sports and entertainment industries has been blurred to such a degree that computer games (or "eSports" if you want to concede Mario Kart is now on the same footing as Formula One) vie for popularity with the real thing, is Kyrgios's sometimes outrageous behaviour vindicated by his undisputed box office appeal?

Or are athletes ostensibly now paid more to sell products, drive online traffic and attract viewing eyeballs than to play the game still bound by the same Corinthian standards of their (not actually) lily white predecessors?

As Kyrgios thumped his way into the third round of this year's Wimbledon, opinion remains sharply divided in his native Australia about a player whose unorthodox play and even more unorthodox demeanour is for some engrossing and for others the second coming (after Richie McCaw) of the sports devil incarnate.

Those who claim to know the "Real Kyrgios" still watch and wait hopefully. Not only for the moment when he fulfils his vast potential at a major tournament, but gives the world more than a rare glimpse of the man they swear is more jovial, intelligent and caring than his behaviour suggests.

Before mounting any defence of Kyrgios, it must be said even his greatest supporters in and outside the tennis establishment admit he has not done much to ingratiate himself to traditionalists; let alone those who prefer their water bottles to remain chaste.

When you have — to read just a few entries from the Kyrgios rap sheet — told Stan Wawrinka that "(fellow Australian Thanasi) Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend" across the net, confessed to serial tanking, made wharfies blush with your admonishments and had your professionalism questioned by John McEnroe, you are going to get a reputation.

Yet those who claim to know the "Real Kyrgios" still watch and wait hopefully. Not only for the moment when he fulfils his vast potential at a major tournament, but gives the world more than a rare glimpse of the man they swear is more jovial, intelligent and caring than his behaviour — and the most sensational coverage of that behaviour — suggests.

The story that best encapsulates the Kyrgios enigma was told to me by a member of Australia's Davis Cup team support staff not long after a tie against Kazakhstan in Darwin in 2015.

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During the tie Kyrgios lost a vital singles rubber in which he was heard by the TV audience muttering "I don't want to be here" — another sign of his seemingly conflicted relationship with the game.

Yet the day after he had returned to his native Canberra a seemingly deflated figure, Kyrgios was seen hitting balls for hours on a practice court. The man who supposedly didn't love tennis was working his heart out, not shooting hoops or working the PlayStation.

At the time, the Davis Cup team member compared Kyrgios to a schoolboy who pulls the pigtail of the girl he secretly loves. Kyrgios had a crush on the game but was scared of getting hurt by it.

This analogy might be a bit too complex for those who watch Kyrgios scream at a chair umpire or splinter a racquet and see a petulant brat rather than a conflicted artist.

But it is more likely to be Kyrgios's physical fragility rather than his mental fragility that stops him winning the major title his outsized talent demands.

Kyrgios plays more like the basketballers he idolises than the tennis players he opposes, slam-dunking his serves and smashes. His game extracts such a heavy physical toll that surviving seven best-of-five-matches is a major challenge.

Kyrgios's progress to the third round this year has been relatively incident-free — if you don't count accidentally knocking over a ball girl with a ballistic serve, screaming at his family for not cheering him correctly and demanding an impromptu demonstration of the foot fault rule from an umpire.

Otherwise, two crushing victories have again raised the question if Kyrgios's time has come. It is at moments such as this when he is wooing public hearts that Kyrgios has a habit of switching to chaos mode.

Lock up your water bottles!

• Richard Hinds is a leading Australian sports columnist.