He was accused of making racially charged comments – something he denies – and his on-court antics irritated opponents so much that at least one spat in his direction.
He was tagged for a long time as a tennis brat. And his name is Lleyton Hewitt.
Why drag up the past now? Because Australian sports fans seem to have very short memories.
While Nick Kyrgios is hammered from pillar to post by all and sundry, it seems most have forgotten a simple fact: Hewitt’s behaviour in the early stages of his career was actually far worse.
Kyrgios’ major ‘crime’ has been that crude, vulgar sledge towards Stanislas Wawrinka.
That was incredibly poor and something for which he quickly apologised, but apart from that, Kyrgios’ rap sheet isn’t that bad.
Blow-ups at umpires and fans have occurred, yes, but Kyrgios is only 21 years old and is now showing significant signs of improvement – both with his tennis and his conduct.
That improvement is conveniently overlooked by many, though, who seem ‘stuck’ with their early opinions of Kyrgios – that he is arrogant, rude, can’t fulfil his potential and represents Australia poorly.
One just needs to look at Kyrgios’ performance in Australia’s Davis Cup quarter-final win over the United States to see that things are changing.
The Hewitt example shows us that change can be made, even if it is tough in the public eye, and that Kyrgios is likely to ‘come out the other side’.
Hewitt, who copped his share of criticism back in the day, improved his behaviour dramatically.
He has now retired from tennis but is Australia’s Davis Cup captain.
He is also an astute commentator and a family man who is married with three kids.
The Aussie public adore him and often yearn for a player like him when watching our ‘tennis bad boys’ Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic.
The same transformation can happen with Nick.
A key difference in the careers of Hewitt and Kyrgios is the birth of social media.
Yes, Kyrgios is active on it, but it is the platform which does most damage to him via everyone and anyone.
With every man and his dog able to take a personal pot-shot at Kyrgios at any hour of the day, it must take its toll.
It would, of course, be better for Kyrgios if he quit social media – but asking anyone of his age to do similar is about as likely as the phrase ‘bundled out’ being dropped by the tennis media.
Unfortunately for Nick, there are big numbers in the ‘we will never forgive him’ camp.
Kyrgios isn’t a saint, but it is worth remembering that, in tennis terms, he’s hardly the worst-case scenario in recent history.
John McEnroe anyone? Coincidentally, he’s also a prominent tennis commentator these days too.
In 1997, Pat Rafter was forced to apologise for getting on the beers during a Davis Cup tie.
He went on to win majors, and ended up as head of high performance at Tennis Australia.
He was also named Australian of the Year.
Everyone has a past and retribution is possible.
Kyrgios, like everyone else has, should be given time to seek it.
To those who have declared themselves non-believers of Kyrgios, it’s not too late to get back on board.
As his recent form has indicated, Kyrgios is on some career path.
It’d be a shame for it to be ruined by those who pot from the cheap seats.