By Simon Cambers
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – It is a question on everyone’s lips at Melbourne Park: how do you coach a player like Nick Kyrgios?
The host country’s most talented player bombed out of the Australian Open in week one amid more criticism of his attitude, behavior and commitment.
The 21-year-old was fined a total of $5,500 for an audible obscenity and racket abuse on his way to a second-round defeat to Italy’s Andreas Seppi, a match he led by two sets to love.
In October, he was banned for eight weeks after clashing with fans and the chair umpire, and walking off court in the middle of a point at the Shanghai Masters.
That ban was reduced to three weeks after he agreed to consult a sports psychologist, and after his Melbourne loss Kyrgios admitted it might be time to hire a coach.
Many top names have already ruled themselves out of the role, and whoever does take on the job will need to be as strong a character as the world number 13 himself.
“You’ve got to be really frank – I think it’s about honesty,” former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash said.
“All these young guys, they get plenty of money and no one’s told them the reality or truth of it all. It’s not easy hearing the truth.”
Cash said he did not feel Kyrgios was at crisis point but said he needed to “get a better understanding of himself”.
“It’s really important that he gets a full, complete team around him that can handle the issues that are there,” he said.
“It’s a holistic approach to Nick and it’s not just about him performing on the tennis court. It’s everything else that goes on around him that needs to be looked at.
“But he’s got to have his fun – if he doesn’t want to play tennis then quit, that’s fine. No problems. I’d be the first person to say ‘well done’ if he wants to do that.”
Thomas Johansson, a former Australian Open champion who has coached Caroline Wozniacki, Borna Coric and David Goffin, said getting your message across was not always easy.
“The thing with these youngsters, they think that they know everything and sometimes they don’t really listen to what you say,” the Swede told Reuters.
“I think it’s quite important to show them who’s the boss. Sometimes, not only in matches but also on the practice court, you can see that they don’t like this exercise or they don’t think it’s good.
“Borna would tell you in two seconds but David would not tell you, he would just continue working. If you can find a combination between those two, it’s good. I don’t like when you’re on the same page all the time.”
Patrick Mouratoglou, who coaches Serena Williams, said the fact that Kyrgios had mentioned the need for a coach was a positive step but added that all the top players liked to push a coach’s buttons.
“I think all the best ones are strong personalities, otherwise they wouldn’t be champions,” he told Reuters.
“It’s not a confrontation but of course you have to show them your credibility. If they go too far you have to make the problem stop, you have to show that you have a strong personality too, but you respect them.
“If there is a confrontation the goal is that this confrontation leads to no more confrontation in the future. Sometimes it’s necessary.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)