Explosive Nick Kyrgios interview: Australian opens up on abuse, why he spat towards spectator at Wimbledon, ages of line judges and more

Australian showman Nick Kyrgios clashed with official and fans during his win over Brit Paul Jubb – and then he clashed with journalists. Here’s what happened …
Nick Kyrgios had an epic five-set battle with Paul Jubb in the first round of Wimbledon.Nick Kyrgios had an epic five-set battle with Paul Jubb in the first round of Wimbledon.
Nick Kyrgios had an epic five-set battle with Paul Jubb in the first round of Wimbledon.

THE MODERATOR: Nick, just give us your initial thoughts on that match.

NICK KYRGIOS: Just a typical first round here for me. I played so many five-setters first round. It's an absolute roller coaster.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So just super pumped to be able to just move through really. Easily could have gone the other way today. A couple lucky shots here or there. He put himself in a position to win.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q: Sorry to get off the tennis track. Rather serious question. Were you racially abused out on court?

NICK KYRGIOS: Not today, no, no. But a lot of disrespect was being thrown today from the crowds. I'm just starting to think that it's normal when it's really not. You know, I didn't say anything to the crowd until they started just every time I came down to the far end, people just going. It's just I don't know if it's normal or not.

Q: How does that make you feel when you feel that? A lot of people like you here. Is this something new that you're discovering?

NICK KYRGIOS: It just happened, like, obviously when it happened in Stuttgart, the racial abuse, and then it happened to [Naomi] Osaka in Indian Wells where someone screamed out, affected her match. I just don't understand why spectators feel like they're able to do that.

Q: Are you able to share with us any details of what was said to you?

NICK KYRGIOS: Just pure disrespect, just anything. Like someone just yelled out I was shit in the crowd today. Is that normal? No. But I just don't understand why it's happening over and over again.

Q: You normally love this tournament.

NICK KYRGIOS: No, I love this tournament. It's got nothing to do with Wimbledon. I just think it's a whole generation of people like on social media feeling like they have a right to comment on every single thing with negativity. It just carries on to real life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Because there's a fence there, and I physically can't do anything or say anything because I'll get in trouble. They just feel the need that they're just able to say anything they want.

Q: On the flip side of that, you were overheard today, you were having a bit of an interaction with the line judges. At one point I think you said, You're in your 90s, you can't see the ball.

NICK KYRGIOS: No, I said most of the umpires are older, and I just don't think that's ideal when you're playing a sport of such small margins. Factually people that are younger have better eyesight. Do you not think that's appropriate?

When you're playing at a sport for hundreds and thousands of dollars, do you not think that we should have people that are really ready to call the ball in or out?

Q: Is it an age thing, though?

NICK KYRGIOS: Factually does someone have better eyesight when they're younger?

Q: Not necessarily.

NICK KYRGIOS: What do you mean 'not necessarily' (laughter)? What does he mean? What do you mean 'not necessarily'?

Q: I don't know.

NICK KYRGIOS: That specific thing, I hit a ball in, the old man called it out, it was in. So arguably if the guy was 40, he may not have called that out.

Q: But he may be 60 and may have 20/20 vision, you don't know that.

NICK KYRGIOS: In this case he got the call wrong.

Q: Young people get a call wrong, don't they?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

NICK KYRGIOS: Okay. I don't understand the question, though.

Q: Can you elaborate on the whole social media thing. Do other players share your fears? What would you like Wimbledon to do about it?

NICK KYRGIOS: I didn't say it for anyone to... I'm just giving you an example. I think people, spectators, everyone is so quick to just negatively put their energy on someone else. And there's no real consequences.

On social media you can just bash someone on social media and there's no real consequence. Now, whether it's racial abuse or just disrespect, it's acceptable. But why is that acceptable?

Q: If it's two or three times, should they then say...

NICK KYRGIOS: I don't know. As a player who cops it very hard, I'm getting it nearly every match. I'm playing someone who is -- just because they're sitting there and I can't do anything, they just feel the need.

Q: Has any authority ever taken a fan out in any of your matches?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, a couple of types.

Q: Do you have any sympathy for what happens with the line judges, for example? Do you have any sympathy with sometimes how they're treated by players, for example? Umpires take it, line judges take it.

NICK KYRGIOS: It goes deeper than that because if I lose a tennis match and it comes down to a call, they're not getting abused on social media. I have to deal with it. My girlfriend deals with hate messages. My family deals with hate messages. I deal with hate messages.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Where, for instances, that time in Miami when Carlos Bernardes did that and the whole match turned. Was he dealing with the repercussions? I still deal with that. They just move on like nothing happened. They're back out there refereeing, umpiring.

For me the hate messages, they carry way more weight than just that. That's what people don't understand. It's not just, Oh, he made a bad call, and I'm just abusing the umpire. I'm frustrated.

If I lose this match, you have no idea how much abuse I have to go through, where the umpires don't go through anything. What do they go through?

Q: Do you have any sympathy for them, though?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, if I hit a 220 serve and it hits him, Oh, sorry. Are you okay? If they make a bad call, I just focus on one line, why would I have sympathy for that? There's hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. Why would I have sympathy for that? Doesn't make sense.

Q: Can I just ask, at the end you did appear to spit in the direction of...

NICK KYRGIOS: Of one of the people disrespecting me. Yes.

Q: So that was deliberate?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yes. I would not be doing that to someone who was supporting me.

Q: I believe you did complain about those spectators to the umpire at the time.


Q: Asked them to be removed?


Q: Would you have liked them to have responded to your request?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

NICK KYRGIOS: Honestly, I'm okay with -- look, I'm okay with receiving a lot of it. But what I don't understand is as soon as I give it back, for instance in Stuttgart I gave it back, I got a game penalty.

Today as soon as I won the match, I turned to him... I've been dealing with hate and negativity for a long time, so I don't feel like I owed that person anything. Like, he literally came to the match to literally just, like, not even support anyone really. It was more just to, like, stir up and disrespect. That's fine. But if I give it back to you, then that's just how it is.

Q: Can I clarify one thing. With the umpire I understood you did make some reference to racism to the umpire.


Q: Can you explain what that was. It's a bit confusing.

NICK KYRGIOS: What's confusing?

Q: People thought you were making a complaint.

NICK KYRGIOS: Yes, because it happens all the time and nothing happens.

Q: But nobody made a racist...

NICK KYRGIOS: Not today. I didn't say that.

Q: First rounds are very tough. How was your mental state dealing with all the extra issues, your level of maturity to come back and pull that fifth set?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, it was probably one of the hardest matches I've played at Wimbledon mentally. Obviously it's not easy, the whole crowd towards the end was going for him. I knew that, I could feel it. He was kind of free-swinging. He's ranked like 220. He was not playing that level by the end of the match.

To be honest, how I got through that is I'm pretty proud of myself to be able to sit here as the winner today. Couple years ago, who knows. I may have lost that match. I'm just happy to have another chance to go out there and try to put in a better performance.

From a level standpoint, that's probably one of the worst matches I've ever played at Wimbledon. I wasn't feeling the ball well, I wasn't hitting the ball well, I wasn't serving well, I couldn't make a return for ages. I played awful for an hour and a half. Then somehow I just scrapped. I just take that as a positive.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That's probably one of the worst matches I've played in three years, and I somehow won. Some of the problems came from him. He was serving well. He served to my forehand body, which is my weakest return. He was coming up with some good shots. He played well. But tough conditions.

Q: Going back to the racism comments and the question there, do you feel you're treated differently because of that? Is that what you're alluding to, because of your race, in terms of the disrespect you received?

NICK KYRGIOS: I don't know if that's the case.

Q: Does it feel like that for you?

NICK KYRGIOS: Well, I've grown up in Australia, so I definitely know what racism is. I feel like it's a battle, constant battle, coming from that place and dealing with it.

I don't know. I don't think it's got anything to do with that. I just think spectators in general think there's just no line there anymore. They can just say something and they film it and then they laugh about it. It's like that could actually hurt someone's feelings. Do you know what I mean?

Q: Coming off of a five-set win in a match you said previously you could have lost, where do we go forward, what do we do now in terms of stopping having these conversations?

NICK KYRGIOS: I don't know.

Q: Where do we go?

NICK KYRGIOS: I don't know. I've got enough problems. I couldn't even break Paul Jubb today. That was my problem. I was like, How am I going to break this guy? I don't need to be dealing with that stuff. Like I don't know.

Q: You were asked after the match about Andy Murray doing an underarm serve. People look to you as a person that's made that kind of trendy again. Kind of a very old school kind of tactic. Can you talk on that point, that impact you've had on the wider game.

NICK KYRGIOS: Well, I actually remember the first time I did it, was against Nadal in Acapulco. Actually watch it back. Everyone should just watch that back. The commentators were like, What's he done here? It's so disrespect. Why would he do that?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Now it's like, So smart. Andy Murray, so smart. I'm just like, What on earth? I'm playing Rafael Nadal for like three hours. I couldn't win a point. I threw in one underarm serve. They, I don't know if there's a place in the game for that. Everyone does it now. It's like they're a genius.

So, like, I don't know. I'm glad that people are realizing that's a different way to win the point. I think it's just hilarious.

Q: So to come back to the umpire issue, I'm just curious. You said they're not experiencing any abuse or online hate as a result of them doing their jobs. Is that a result of talking to umpires? Have you ever spoken to them to try to understand their experience?

NICK KYRGIOS: Well, I could just show you my, like, for instance if I showed you my Instagram versus an umpire's Instagram.

Q: Have you seen an umpire's Instagram?

NICK KYRGIOS: I heavily doubt they would be dealing with... Do you think they would be dealing with the same amount of hate?

Q: I don't know. I'm curious whether you...

NICK KYRGIOS: I just know factually, like if we go through my Instagram compared to an umpire's, it's disgusting some of the things I deal with. Like my brother has alopecia, and they joke about him being a cancer patient. I doubt the umpires are dealing with that.

Q: We've been talking a lot about respect and so on, how people feel when they're disrespected. In the calmness after the game, do you regret calling one of the line judges a 'snitch'?


Q: That would be pretty hurtful, as you were hurt.

NICK KYRGIOS: But why? That's what she did. I didn't do anything and she went to the umpire and told her something that I didn't say. That's called whistleblowing.

Q: It is also her job to tell the umpire.

NICK KYRGIOS: Factually what happened.

Q: So what was the disrespect?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

NICK KYRGIOS: I don't know. The disrespect is all these players -- all these spectators that come to see a full stadium with Nick Kyrgios and my opponent. She found it relevant to go to run to the umpire at 30-Love and make it about her. No one was there to see her today, factually.

Q: Offering you the opportunity, you're getting some airtime on Twitter, as I'm sure you can imagine, some of the comments. Shit supermarket shelf stackers is one of them. BBC Sport is saying that you said: I don't 'start clapping when they're' --


Q: -- 'scanning shit at a supermarket, do I?'


Q: Can you elaborate? I think you almost have. Can you explain that.

NICK KYRGIOS: Well, I've never, ever just gone to anyone else's job and just blatantly spat, disrespected them. I don't understand why people do that to athletes. Why do they feel the need that that's acceptable?

I don't go into Argos and just start smashing someone at the counter when they're doing their job. I've never done that in my life. I think it's a level of respect. I don't care what you do. I'm just saying, why do people...

It's happening more and more in sport. Like, spectators are just, I don't know, so disrespectful to the athletes. I don't think it's okay. Like, have you ever gone into like a supermarket and just started berating someone scanning the groceries? No. So why do they do it when I'm at Wimbledon? Why is that?


NICK KYRGIOS: No worries.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.