WHEN it comes to making a racquet, Australian Nick Kyrgios is the true successor to John McEnroe as the new bad boy of tennis.
Aussie Kyrgios fuming at the Tsitsipas match last weekCredit: Getty
Kyrgios rants at a Wimbledon umpireCredit: PA
Kyrgios spits at the crowdCredit: Twitter
And like McEnroe — famous for bawling “you cannot be serious” at umpires — he screams abuse at officials and riles his opponents.
Viewers dare not miss his controversial press conferences — and remarkably, Kyrgios is now even being tipped as a potential Wimbledon champion.
The astonishing prediction comes despite extraordinary scenes on No1 Court over the weekend where the 27-year-old Aussie was branded “evil” and a “bully” by his opponent.
Earlier in the tournament he was even fined £8,000 for SPITTING at a spectator.
But tennis experts say that in spite of his terrible behaviour, Kyrgios has what it takes to hold aloft the men’s singles trophy and collect a cheque for £2million.
Kyrgios — who has never progressed further than the quarter finals of any grand slam — is in action again today, against 20-year-old American Brandon Nakashima.
And the crowd will again expect fireworks on the court, where the bad boy can smash 140mph serves with an incredible 75 per cent accuracy.
To rattle his opponents, he will even serve underarm.
On Saturday, the world No40 riled Stefanos Tsitsipas so much that the Greek player repeatedly tried to hit balls at him and angrily twice deliberately smashed shots into the crowd, narrowly missing fans.
After losing, No4 Wimbledon hope Stefanos complained of his opponent: “It’s constant bullying. He was probably a bully at school. I don’t like bullies.
“He has some good traits in his character, as well. But he also has a very evil side to him, which if it’s exposed, can really do a lot of harm to the people around him.”
Kyrgios hit back: “He’s got some serious issues.
“I’ve got many friends. I’m actually one of the most liked. He’s not liked. Let’s just put that there.
The star’s unmistakable style has split pundits, with some praising his pure entertainment value and others claiming he is a stain on the game.
BBC tennis analyst Laura Robson says fans are watching Kyrgios for the “wrong reasons”, hoping he will “self-implode”.
Even McEnroe, now 63, has warned him over his temper, saying: “I hope he sees the writing on the wall before this gets chronic.”
But former British No1 Andrew Castle describes Kyrgios as “pure box office” and insists his unpredictability is what fans love about him.
Later today Kyrgios’s stunning fiancée, 21-year-old social media influencer Costeen Hatzi, and his dad George, will be among a sell-out crowd on Centre Court.
His mum Nill is a member of the Malaysian royal family but gave up using the title princess when she moved to Australia and fell in love with painter and decorator George, who had emigrated from Greece.
Nick gets his feisty attitude from his mum who, when he came to London in 2014 to play in his first tournament, told her son he would be beaten by Spanish ace Rafa Nadal.
‘He can do lot of harm’
Kyrgios was so incensed he beat the fans’ favourite in four sets — his best-ever Wimbledon result.
Since then controversy has followed him around the world as he battled against umpires and opponents alike.
At the 2016 Australian Open he swore and complained about music coming from the nearby Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Fuming Kyrgios screamed at British umpire James Keothavong: “Mate, are you OK? There’s music playing in the crowd.
“I’ve told you seven times. Am I hearing things? Mate, it’s a circus.”
As Kyrgios walked off the court after losing to Czech Tomas Berdych, he shouted at the official: “You’re a terrible referee.”
Microphones also picked up Kyrgios saying under his breath that Wawrinka, who was 30 at the time, was “banging 18-year-olds”.
His sponsor, Bonds underwear, dropped him for the outburst.
During a clash with Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the 2019 Rogers Cup, Kyrgios refused to play on until he was given a white towel instead of the tournament-branded ones.
When the pristine item arrived, he berated officials because they had taken 20 minutes to get it to him.
‘Afraid to be alone’
Kyrgios was fined £17,000 at the Italian Open after losing the plot when he was given a game penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
He threw a fold-up chair on to the court and shouted about the umpire: “I’m giving 100 per cent to deal with f***ing idiots like him. I’m f***ing done with it.”
With that he slung his bag over his shoulder and stormed off, forfeiting the match to Norway’s Casper Ruud.
That same year he lashed out at Nadal at the Cincinnati Masters. He said of his opponent’s slow service routine: “If Rafa plays that quick I’m retiring from tennis.”
Kyrgios was then denied a bathroom break. He took it anyway — smashing two racquets before returning to the court.
At that year’s Laver Cup he claimed he had lost concentration during his defeat to Roger Federer because he had spotted a “really hot chick in the crowd”.
He said: “I’m being genuinely honest — I’d marry her right now.”
Kyrgios does have a soft side. He won’t eat meat because he wants to protect animals.
He has had several stunning girlfriends — but his relationships have ended in acrimony too.
In 2015 he dated Croatian-born tennis pro Ajla Tomljanovic, who played for Australia.
Nick said: “It’s when I’m with her that I am the happiest.”
But the couple split in 2017 after Kyrgios was photographed partying with other female tennis players.
He later hinted at a reunion but the romance never rekindled.
‘Happiness is Found’
For two months in 2020 he dated Russian player Anna Kalinskaya, who later told her Instagram followers: “We broke up. We aren’t friends.”
Kyrgios was soon making comments about wanting to sleep with good-looking fans.
Though last summer he announced on Instagram “Happiness is Found” with model Chiara Passari.
Yet by October police were called to a quarantine hotel in Adelaide to deal with a row between the pair.
The following month she called Kyrgios a “player” and after he sent roses as an apology she fumed: “Who sends someone roses while still doing the same s***?”
Passari accused him of being “afraid to be alone” after he then fell in love with interior designer Costeen Hatzi.
The beautiful influencer shared her first post of Kyrgios on January 2 with a mirror selfie of them together in the bathroom — after he had left the toilet seat up.
Hatzi captioned it: “Not a bad way to start 2022,” and added a love heart.
By May he was claiming they would be married “very soon” and showing off a new tattoo in tribute to her.
Kyrgios claims to not even like playing tennis but insists he is the world’s best grass-court player.
And now he has the Wimbledon trophy in his sights.
He says: “I just want to remind everyone that I’m pretty good. I think it’s my best chance to win a grand slam of all the four.”
His army of new fans know they will be royally entertained every step of the way.
Tsitsipas lost his temper in third round over ‘bully’ KyrgiosCredit: Getty
Kyrgios’s girlfriend Costeen Hatzi will be sat on Centre Court cheering him onCredit: Instagram / @costeenhatzi
Kyrgios’s ex Anna Kalinskaya – who he dated for two months in 2020Credit: Instagram @annakalinskaya78
Bad boy John McEnroe in 1980 at Wimbledon
Pundit Andrew Castle rates the Aussie playerCredit: BBC
Great for the game? – By Andrew Castle, Former British No1
NICK KYRGIOS is great for the game.
He’s box office, and why do we watch sport?
Because it is unpredictable.
With Kyrgios, I don’t know whether I am going to see a great exhibition of shot-making or a psychological meltdown. It’s a potent combination and one that crowds adore the man for.
Wimbledon scheduled him on Court 12 for his first round match and you could not move for the queue.
His first victim was Britain’s Paul Jubb, undone in five gruelling sets and with the customary drama.
A line judge reported Kyrgios to the umpire. Cue the meltdown.
He called her a “snitch” in a 15-minute press conference that was as entertaining as many matches.
Messily eating sushi while talking, he could not understand why anyone would call him a hypocrite for criticising somebody doing their job while he was doing his.
He also admitted spitting in the direction of a fan who was against him on court.
I commentated on his match on Court Two a day later and he was simply magnificent in dismissing Filip Krajinovic.
Moving to Court One led us to his confrontation with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas hit a ball into the crowd and Kyrgios wanted him kicked out of the tournament.
The locker room might not consider it “sportsmanlike” but that will not bother the Aussie.
He feels he has been victimised time and again.
Tsitsipas was intent on hitting Kyrgios with a ball for the remainder of the match but missed, despite a couple of first-class opportunities.
And when Kyrgios served him underarm he smacked the ball out of the arena again and was given a point penalty. Insult to injury.
The crowd were lapping it up, as were the TV viewers as he made it to round four.
This guy is fascinating.
The reason I know this is that Mrs Castle will always tune in when he is playing.
He is complex, dangerous, talented and sensitive, a potent combination, and may yet have a big say in who wins this tournament.
I would love to see Kyrgios play Rafa Nadal in the semi-final. They are polar opposites – and opposites don’t attract.
Andrew has been BBC lead commentator at 19 Wimbledon finals.
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