By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Nick Kyrgios hit back at John McEnroe’s suggestion that he had stopped trying late in his defeat at the Australian Open on Wednesday, sarcastically suggesting the tennis great turned TV pundit “knows everything”.
The 21-year-old Australian blamed a knee injury and poor conditioning for his lack of mobility around the court towards the end of the five-set second-round defeat by Italian Andreas Seppi.
Clearly upset after blowing a two-set lead and failing to convert a fifth-set match point, Kyrgios bridled when informed that McEnroe had said he had stopped trying and that it was “a black eye for the sport”.
“Well, my body was sore. I was hurting,” the 14th seed said. “I mean, John McEnroe, was it John McEnroe? Good on him. Great career. Good on him.”
Kyrgios’s 2016 season was ended by an ATP suspension for “not trying” at the Shanghai Masters, a ban that was curtailed when he agreed to see a sport’s psychologist.
It was not the first time McEnroe had criticised Kyrgios’s attitude, either.
After a listless effort in his loss to Andy Murray at Wimbledon last year, the American said Kyrgios had to act fast before his problem got “chronic and irreparable”.
Wednesday’s criticism clearly stuck in Kyrgios’s craw and he returned to it when asked to describe the pain in his knee.
“I don’t know, mate. Ask Johnny Mac,” he said. “He knows everything.”
Kyrgios again referred reporters to McEnroe when asked whether he had been in touch with his sport’s psychologist this week.
“Johnny Mac will know, mate. Just talk to him. He knows everything.”
The undoubtedly talented world number 13 said the loss to Seppi had taught him that he needed to revisit his decision not to work with a coach.
“The coach is always a question mark for me,” he said. “I think that’s one area where I obviously need to start taking a bit more seriously. I mean, I don’t think there’s anyone in the top 100 without a coach except for me. That needs to change.”
Although given rousing support by the partisan crowd on Hisense Arena for most of the match against Seppi, there was a reminder of how he divides his compatriots with a few boos after his defeat.
“Obviously it’s not the greatest thing to hear. Pretty banged up, my body,” he said.
“I don’t even know what the score was in the end … getting booed off, definitely not the best feeling.”
As for the rough treatment he gets at the hands of the local media, Kyrgios feigned to have no complaints in that department.
“No. I deserve it,” he said. “I deserve it. I’m a bad guy.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)