Australian tennis rebel Nick Kyrgios caused outrage when launching his tennis racket and almost striking a ball boy following a quarter-final defeat to Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells.
The world number 132 was beaten 7-6(0), 5-7, 6-4 by the recently-crowned Australian Open champion. And though seeming calm as he headed to the net to shake hands with the victor and the umpire, Kyrgios then turned round and smashed his racket into the ground which then bounced into the air and almost hit a ball boy full on.
Kyrgios walked off to a mixture of boos and cheers, and faced wide calls to be banned and receive a “hefty fine” for the outburst. But events leading up to the incident during the three-set thriller should have perhaps been an indicator that he was about to pop off.
Smashing a first racket earlier in the action, he swore in other moments and also had to deal with a heckler.
Kyrgios asked the rowdy punter if he was “good at tennis” to which he answered a firm “no”.
“Exactly, so don’t tell me how to play,” Kyrgios snapped back.
“Do I tell him how to act?” he pointed out, signaling towards A-list actor Ben Stiller, who was enjoying the match with his wife Christine Taylor in front row seats. “No,” Kyrgios finished, raising a smile from the comedian.
Kyrgios also had a heated minute-long exchange with the umpire during the loss, which saw Nadal avenge a Wimbledon 2014 defeat where Kyrgios beat him in four sets to reach the quarter-finals at SW19 on his way to a career-high ranking of world number 13.
Post-match, Kyrgios showed how he didn’t appreciate the heckler nor being asked questions about the second racket smash.
“When you’re a spectator and you’re watching professionals play tennis, you should just be quiet,” Kyrgios insisted. “Like, just sit and enjoy the show. I thought it was a pretty high-level match and I’m just asking for a little bit of respect.”
“What would you like me to say about it?” Kyrgios barked when asked about the ball boy.
“Was that my intention? No. Did I throw the racquet anywhere near him originally? It landed a meter from my foot and skidded and nearly hit him.
“I’m human. Things happen like that. I think if I did that a million times over it wouldn’t have gone this way,” he suggested.
“And what do you want me to say? It was three meters away from the kid. That’s a question you’re going to say after a three-hour battle against Nadal. That’s what you come here with?” Kyrgios scoffed.
Nadal didn’t want to join the pile-on, and said that he thought Kyrgios “had a great attitude during the whole match in terms of fighting spirit, and of course he has his personality, his character”.
“Sometimes he does things that I don’t like,” Nadal conceded. “But I respect because of different character, different kind of points of view, and different kind of education.”
Amid Alexander Zverev attacking a chair umpire with his racket earlier this year, however, for which the German received a suspended ban of eight weeks and a $25,000 fine, Nadal called for the ATP to clamp down on such behavior.
“These situations are happening more and more often. The ATP should put a stop to this,” Nadal stated. “Otherwise, sooner or later, something major will happen.”
Until then, though, there are no hard feelings between Kyrgios and the ball boy as shown in screenshots of messages between the pair that Kyrgios tweeted and captioned by saying he had “made a new friend in the process”.
“Accidents happen but we can go out of our way to make things better,” he added.
“Hey bro! Sorry about my racket incident at the end! Complete accident, you all ok from it?” Kyrgios asked him with a prayer emoji. “I was wondering if I could send you a racket and if you could accept my apology,” he added, while also asking if the youngster would be at the courts tomorrow.
Being a good sport, the ball boy accepted Kyrgios’ olive branch and thanked him for “reaching out” before confirming he was “completely fine”, would love a racket, and would be on court on Friday.
“Of course my bro!” Kyrgios replied. “Didn’t want it going anywhere near you to be honest,” he said, before mapping out how he would get the racket to the ball boy by tracking him down.
Despite his goodwill gesture, Kyrgios could still face disciplinary action as he did in 2019. Then, Kyrgios was infamously hit with a suspended ban of 16 weeks and a $25,000 fine for aggravated behavior when suffering a Cincinnati meltdown that saw him brand the ATP “corrupt”.