Australian tennis superstar Nick Kyrgios has opened up about the personal meaning behind his tattoos and revealed why he almost quit the sport before the pandemic hit.
The Australian world number 40 has several tattoos etched across his skin.
But its his a small tattoo of the number 74, which is barely visible on the inside of his middle finger, that holds the most significance.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Kyrgios, 25, explained how he got the tiny ink as a tribute to his late grandmother who passed away about six years ago and how it served as a reminder about the cost of fame and success.
‘The last three years of her life when she was struggling, I didn’t see her. Then you get the news and you start to regret all the travelling and being away. Like really? What were you doing that was so important?’ a candid Kyrgios said.
Kyrgios pictured with girlfriend Chiara Passari has said he does not regret any of his famous meltdowns
One of Kyrgios’ most personal tattoos among his many inkings – a 74 on the inside of his middle finger- was inspired by his relationship with his grandmother
Nick Kyrgios getting a tattoo tribute to fallen basketball star Kobe Bryant in 2020
His grandmother, Julianah Foster, died at 74-years-old just days after Kyrgios had a dream run at Wimbledon in 2014 – smashing then world number one Rafael Nadal off the court on his way to the quarter finals.
Kyrgios, who had turned professional the year before, was then ranked 144 in the world and qualified for the tournament through a wildcard.
KYRGIOS’ BRUSHES WITH RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
Olympic swimming great Dawn Fraser was forced to apologise after suggesting he ‘go back to where his parents came from’.
Veteran BBC commentator John Inverdale likened the Australian tennis star to a character from The Jungle Book.
He has been sent Facebook messages Kyrgios a ‘f**king disgrace to Australia’ and told him to ‘f**k off back to India’.
By October 2016 he had climbed to a career high ranking of number 13 in the world and earned a reputation in Australian and abroad as one of the most controversial and loud-mouthed players since John McEnroe.
Kyrgios, whose father is Greek and mother is Malaysian, has consistently divided Australians’ opinions on whether he is one of the greats or an immature and abrasive kid from Canberra who takes his talent for granted.
Years of controversy and his well publicised love / hate relationship with the game hasn’t left him unaffected, with Kyrgios revealing he was on the verge of quitting the sport at the start of 2020.
Confiding in friend and fellow top tennis ace, Jack Sock from the United States, Kyrgios revealed he had questioned whether the global coronavirus pandemic and associated travel bans would be a good point for him to walk away from the game.
‘It wasn’t making me happy … It was a negative impact on my life. I was like ”this doesn’t mean I have to stop completely but maybe it’s time to take a break … get in touch with other things”,’ Kyrgios said.
Asked whether he regrets any of his many on and off court outbursts, Kyrgios, in typical fashion says with a grin he would do them all again.
‘I don’t really feel like I have anything else to prove. I’ve beaten pretty much every player on the tour, and I just do it my own way. That’s it.’
Kyrgios pictured as a toddler with his grandmother, Julianah Foster who was the inspiration for one of his tattoos
Kyrgios’ tattoo on his right arm features Kobe Bryant, along with Lebron James and Michael Jordan’s Nike sneakers while on his finger is the tribute to his grandmother
Of his infamous tanking – not playing to his full ability – during the Shanghai Masters in 2016, Kyrgios joked he would do it again because it was one of the most memorable tank-jobs in history.
In the match against Germany’s Mischa Zverev he literally strolled off the court mid-point then asked the umpire if ‘we could wrap this up so I can go home’.
A year earlier in 2015 he told Swiss player Stan Wawrinka during a match that fellow Australian player Thanasi Kokkinakis had ‘banged his girlfriend’.
He received heavy fines and playing suspensions for both incidents.
He was not invited to play for Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics after making comments that Australia’s chef de mission Kitty Chiller had finished 14th in her triathlon race.
Kyrgios, whose father is Greek and mother is Malaysian, said he has a ‘love/hate’ relationship with the game and admitted it was at times a ‘sh** sport’ (pictured at the Australian Open in January)
He said this was just stating fact and Chiller had gotten over-defensive, adding he would make the same comments again.
Racism has also been present in the background of Kyrgios’ career, with the born and raised Australian once notably told to ‘go back to where you’re from’ by Australian Olympic legend Dawn Fraser.
In 2017, Kyrgios admitted he had ‘probably’ tanked at eight tournaments during his career because he simply would rather have been somewhere else.
He does have one career regret, however, following fellow players and his team’s advice to see a sports psychologist.
He claims the process put a lot of things in his head that were incorrect, sending him further into depression and doubt than before he had sought help.
Mostly through the worst of that, Kyrgios said working through the issues himself had pulled him out of a lot of what he was going through, rather than the professional psychologists.
Kyrgios is now preparing to make his return to the court after more than 300 days in covid hibernation at the 2021 Australian Open.
Saying he had previously put a cap of 28-years-old on his playing career, he is now unsure of when he will hang up his raquet as he feels like he has plenty more in the tank.
Kyrgios is seen laying on the court after losing a point during his Men’s Singles fourth round match against Rafael Nadal during the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 27
NICK KYRGIOS MELTDOWNS
BY JAMES DUTTON
Rogers Cup, 2015
No stranger to having his professionalism on a tennis court questioned, Kyrgios strayed well over the line when a fiery match with Stan Wawrinka got personal.
It may have been a ‘heat of the moment’ response to a ‘lippy’ opponent, but the Aussie was fooling no one after he was caught by an on-court microphone telling his opponent: ‘Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that mate.’
Kyrgios was referring to his Davis Cup team-mate Thanasi Kokkinakis, while Wawrinka was romantically linked with his now girlfriend Donna Vekic. It was a line more likely to promote a heavyweight boxing match than grace a tennis court, and Wawrinka was deeply unimpressed by the apparent sledging.
‘I just hope the ATP takes big measures against him. He’s young but that’s no excuse… every match, he behaves very badly’, he said.
‘The problem is he doesn’t just behave badly towards himself, he behaves badly towards the people around, the other players, the ball kids, the umpires. I really hope the ATP will take major action against him this time.’
He was fined £10,000 and handed a 28-day suspended sentence.
Australian Open, 2016
He could have let it go to voicemail. He could have switched it off. He could have left it in the locker room.
For once Kyrgios escaped punishment, but eyebrows were still raised after this indiscretion.
Before a mixed doubles match in Melbourne three years ago he answered a phone call as he sat down with partner Ajla Tomljanovic.
Officials investigated the incident, which had left Tomljanovic thoroughly bemused, but he avoided sanction because it was pre-match.
‘Some of my friends called me,’ Kyrgios said. When asked if it was something important, he replied: ‘Kind of, not really’.
Kyrgios took a call from a friend before a mixed doubles match in Melbourne in 2016
Accusations of tanking have followed Kyrgios throughout his career. He was booed at Wimbledon in 2015 for a lack of effort in returning serves from Richard Gasquet.
But when he did not return shots and served without effort at the Shanghai Masters in 2016 it earned him a three-month ban and a £20,500 fine.
At one point he patted a serve over the net and at another he was walking off court before his opponent, Mischa Zverev, had returned the ball.
When told to act professionally by umpire Ali Nili after swearing, he responded: ‘Can you call time so I can finish this match and go home?’
He made no apologies for his conduct after the match, even taking aim at the fans.
‘I don’t owe them [the fans] anything. It’s my choice. If you don’t like it, I didn’t ask you to come watch. Just leave. You want to buy a ticket? Come watch me.You know I’m unpredictable. It’s your choice. I don’t owe you anything. Doesn’t affect how I sleep at night.’
Against Mischa Zverev in Shanghai in 2016 Kyrgios patted a tame serve over the net
He then walked off court before Zverev had even returned the serve to win the point
Kyrgios believed he was sharing a private moment with his players’ box when he mimicked a crude sex act with a water bottle during a break in games.
Instead the moment was beamed into living rooms across the world as it was caught on live television during a defeat by Marin Cilic at Queen’s last year.
Kyrgios held his drink bottle towards his groin and appeared to pretend to masturbate.
After playing around with his drink bottle he then finished off by spraying water onto the ground and taking a sip before sharing a cheeky grin. He was fined £13,000.
Earlier in the week he shouted out ‘f***’ during his match against Kyle Edmund, forcing BBC commentary to apologise for the foul language.
His response when it was raised afterwards? ‘Fine. I don’t care’.
Kyrgios was caught on TV mimicking a sex act with a water bottle at Queen’s last year
Somehow Kyrgios made it to the age of 23, a world ranking of 18 and over £5m earned in prize money without knowing the foot-fault rule.
In an embarrassing, yet hilarious, moment at Wimbledon last year umpire James Keothavong had to get down from his chair and teach the Aussie the rules of the game.
He was shown the centre mark foot fault rule by the British official during a break between sets in his second-round match.
Keothavong stood with his feet behind the doubles tramline near his chair to explain.
He drew an imaginary extension of the centre mark and put his back foot the other side of the court, which is against the rules.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) rules state: ‘The server shall not touch the imaginary extension of the centre mark with either foot.’
At last year’s Wimbledon Kyrgios had to be taught the foot-fault rule on serves
Umpire James Keothavong got down from his chair to teach the Aussie player the rules
Italian Open, 2019
Even by Kyrgios’ standards this meltdown on one of the outside courts against Casper Ruud was incredible.
The Aussie allowed himself to get riled by spectators and became involved in an exchange with officials after being made to forfeit a game to go 2-1 down in the decider.
Having angrily hurled his racket to the floor he threw the fold-up chair onto the playing surface and then went into an expletive-filled rant, shouting at the chair: ‘I am giving 100 per cent to deal with f****** idiots like him, I’m done. I’m f****** done. I’m f****** done with it. I don’t give a f***.’
He then put his bag over his shoulder and walked off court of his own accord, but was officially defaulted from the match.
Kyrgios smashed his racket into the ground before kicking something along the floor
Kyrgios picked up a seat from courtside and hurled that into the centre of the court
Kyrgios’ Centre Court meeting with Rafael Nadal was always going to be explosive viewing and so it proved. After all, he had been partying into the early hours Wimbledon pub The Dog and Fox.
Not only was the Aussie underarm serving the world No 2 but he smashed a forehand directly at Nadal and later claimed he wanted the ball to strike him.
Kyrgios then turned his anger on the chair umpire for seemingly operating with a double standard when it came to the shot clock for the two players.
‘Wow, you’ve got so much power up there,’ Kyrgios said.
‘Look at you. Look at you. You’re no one. You think you’re important. You have no idea what’s going on. You’re a disgrace.’
After the match, Kyrgios went on to add: ‘I got angry at the ref. He’s like, ‘No, I’ll tell him what I want to tell him.’ I was like, ‘Oh, a little bit of a power trip there.’ He obviously feels pretty important sitting up in the chair. He was just terrible. I thought the way he handled the match was just bad.’
Kyrgios had a row with umpire Damien Dumusois while he took on Nadal at SW19