Nick Kyrgios vows to 'improve' after eight-week ban
Australian tennis player accepts ATP punishment for 'tanking' at the Shanghai Masters last week
Nick Kyrgios has vowed to improve his behaviour after being banned for eight weeks by the ATP for "tanking" at the Shanghai Masters last week.
During his match against Mischa Zverev, a player ranked 100 places below him, the 21-year-old enfant terrible of the tennis circuit patted serves over the net, walked off court before points had been completed, argued with a spectator and asked the umpire to speed up the game so he could "go home".
He was found guilty by the ATP of "conduct contrary to the integrity of the game".
The eight-week ban rules him out until next year, reports The Guardian. However, the suspension could be reduced to three weeks if Kyrgios agrees to "a plan of care under the direction of a sports psychologist, or an equivalent plan approved by ATP".
It is unclear if the Australian will accept the offer, but he appeared contrite in a statement on his website.
"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise again for the circumstances in Shanghai. The season has been a long one as I battled several injuries and other challenges towards the end of the summer," he said. Having won his previous tournament in Japan, he added, "my body finally just gave out in Shanghai both physically and mentally".
He pledged to "use this time off to improve on and off the court" and said he was looking forward to returning in 2017.
The ATP's decision is "significant", says Russell Fuller of the BBC: "The ATP will hope this shocks the Australian into addressing more seriously the issues which are holding back his career."
But, Kyrgios needs support as well as censure, he argues. "Reproach and sanction can only ever be part of the solution... How many 21-year-olds outside the world of sport and entertainment would be able to deal with the stress of performing under such an unforgiving spotlight?"
Kyrgios has at least one supporter on the circuit. Last week, Andy Murray, who last night won the Shanghai tournament, said he, too, had struggled with the demands of being a professional tennis player when he was younger and offered to help.
"You don't want to see young guys who are in the spotlight, struggling and making mistakes, doing things that ultimately hurt them," he said.
Nick Kyrgios: Is the pressure too much for the Australian?
Fears are growing for the future of tennis star Nick Kyrgios after he was booed off court at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.
The Australian, who last week won the Japan Open, gave a "disgraceful display" against world number 110 Mischa Zverev, says Barry Flatman of The Times, and left to jeers.
To say Kyrgios was out of sorts during the second-round match would be an understatement. He lost 6-3, 6-1 in 48 minutes following a performance that is sure to land him in hot water with the ATP.
Flatman says: "The Australian at times bunted his serves like an eight-year-old hitting a ball in a rounders match, walked to his courtside chair for a changeover before Mischa Zverev’s serve had even bounced, argued with a spectator, was warned for swearing and then casually dismissed the fuss about his behaviour."
At one point Kyrgios asked umpire Ali Nili to speed up the game "so I can finish this match and go home". Nili later asked him to remain "professional".
The player has behaved similarly in matches against Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet at Wimbledon. "It was a very Nick Kyrgios thing for Nick Kyrgios to do," says Tom Fordyce of the BBC.
However, this was perhaps his most dramatic collapse as it came against an inferior opponent merely days after the biggest success of his career.
"The question now is: what to do with Kyrgios?" asks Flatman. "Is the right course of action to berate the rebellious 21-year-old for his repeated gross unprofessionalism? Should he be fined for bringing his sport into disrepute or pitied as a young man horribly lost and confused in a pressurised situation?"
Most observers appear to believe a measure of sympathy is required. Kyrgios's actions were "undeniably childish, unprofessional and quite possibly a desperate cry for attention", says Charlie Eccleshare of the Daily Telegraph.
But the life of a tennis professional is boring and repetitive, adds the journalist. Kyrgios, while hugely talented and making millions from the game, looks like a "young man struggling to cope with the relentless goldfish bowl existence of being a top-level tennis player", he concludes.
Russell Jackson in The Guardian reports how a newspaper profile of Kyrgios said he was fascinated by Pokemon Go and spent much of his time playing it with the younger members.
"The impression it left on me is that faced with the myriad pressures of a quite brutal and unforgiving professional sport, Nick Kyrgios is not only resisting adulthood, he’s withdrawing himself further back into the comforts of childhood," Jackson writes.
"What's becoming clear is that Kyrgios is no more capable of handling the amplified emotional challenges of a life lived in the intense spotlight of pro tennis than any other person his age, and there’s now a strong body of evidence to conclude that his coping mechanisms are really not up to spec."
The Telegraph's Eccleshare feels he either needs a break or support from within the game. "It might even benefit Kyrgios to have someone from the world of tennis come out and say something positive about him, or acknowledge that he does not possess the saintliness of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal but that maybe that's OK," he writes.