Written by By Gemma Rego, CNN
It’s a story that does not generally rely on the interpretation of second-hand gossip. But Melbourne-born tennis pro Nick Kyrgios’ surprising behavior during a fiery Shanghai Open semifinal has left the sports world wondering just how much Australia’s newest superstar is growing up off the court.
The Australian has raised eyebrows throughout the sport’s history for his apparent ego-driven ambitions, maverick behavior and tendency to cite rap lyrics as inspiration.
His recent antics in China included refusing to shake hands with Czech Tomas Berdych after the first set of their quarterfinal clash and using some particularly harsh language towards his coaches during the second.
One can’t help but smile at Kyrgios’ ridiculousness and be reminded of this classic line from Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places”: “Smirnoff Ice. Rotten. A dead hit from last night.”
Certainly Kyrgios’ on-court tantrums tend to get him into trouble, for which the Australian has no sympathy.
“Every single player is going to have some sort of temper tantrum, I guess you’d like him to be more mature,” his coach Andrew Gaze said of his player’s behavior.
In June 2015, as the Australian Open begins, Kyrgios is accused of purposely throwing a match and is fined almost $20,000 by the ATP after appearing to ignore his umpire’s warnings and change his set mood by moving his racquet rapidly between points.
His tempestuous personality has drawn criticism in Australia for having a bad influence on the image of the sport’s best.
‘You are the greatest’
Last year’s US Open final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, watched by almost three quarters of the tennis world, was more eagerly anticipated than the previous three finals combined because of how the game might play out on its revamped venue.
So it proved with a highly charged semifinal between the two men, which saw the loser, Murray, taking aim at ‘Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend’ referring to rival Serb Djokovic’s former girlfriend.
Kyrgios was back at it this year, describing what he saw as a lack of support during last year’s final between Murray and Djokovic after the umpire had interrupted his pre-match interview. “You are the greatest,” shouted Kyrgios, prompting the tennis star to follow that up by hitting two racquets to the ground.
He’s just fed up with umpires. “Take him off now” Kyrgios told the umpire during his third-round match this week, after a time-out was called while a lineswoman attended to a medical condition. Video: CNN
The crowd and the Australian media reacted with real concern.
“The world’s favorite bad boy is wreaking more havoc this year than his sister Kim (Kyrgios), who has also been the subject of drama,” wrote the Courier Mail.
But Kyrgios continued his trash talk during a fourth-round match against Ivo Karlovic.
“You’re pretty good on the court but on the Internet you’re a wanker,” he was heard to say on a clip widely shared around the web. “I hope one day you can do your job properly,” Karlovic had replied earlier.
If that’s a case of the towel incident highlighted in his winning win, it’s not the only instance when Kyrgios has been known to hold back on the court.
In 2013, during a match against Simone Bolelli, Kyrgios — who was representing a man’s rights organization called Just Play — was seen playing the role of a female dancer, prompting a disappointing end to the match for Kyrgios, who went on to lose in straight sets to Bolelli.
To make matters worse, the choreographed fiasco was filmed and posted online, making Kyrgios a laughing stock.