At least two high-profile tennis watchers say they’ll be missing petulant Australian Nick Kyrgios at this year’s French Open.
One is former champion Mats Wilander. The other is Cameron Norrie, the Briton that Kyrgios was meant to play in the first round.
Australian Kyrgios’s one-man circus act will be missing from Roland Garros for the second year running, sparing umpires, fans and even courtside chairs from the 24-year-old’s outbursts.
He recently forfeited his match at the Italian Open after launching a chair across the court in frustration – just the latest entry on his lengthy crime sheet.
For all his antics, however, Kyrgios remains one of the biggest draws in men’s tennis and seven-time grand slam champion Wilander believes he will be missed by fans and fellow players.
“Listen, as long as he is throwing chairs and breaks racquets because he has lost the first set 7-6 and dropped serve to go down in the second, as long as he’s pissed that he’s losing then he’s great for the game,” Wilander, 54, told Reuters.
“It’s like John McEnroe. At the time we didn’t know if it was good or bad but obviously he was one of the most important players that ever played the game.
“I just can’t handle it when it looks like he’s not trying or wants to be somewhere else.”
In Miami this year Kyrgios picked an argument with a fan and last week in a live social media post said the French Open “sucked” and that he hated clay.
He has also recently launched verbal volleys at the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal but Wilander says despite ruffling some feathers, Kyrgios is popular among his peers.
“The locker room loves him, but they hate losing to him,” Wilander said.
“The problem is that the more antics he does, the more trick shots, the more he irritates his opponent. He is going to have to fight through so many players because they will refuse to lose to someone doing that.
“When he gets angry with himself players then realise ‘Hey, this guy does care’. OK Nadal said a few things in Acapulco about him not respecting the game.
But the handshake with Nick is generally pretty like ‘I know what you’re going through but you are a good guy’. I think he’s a good guy deep down.”
For his part, Norrie knows he has a better chance of progress at the French Open but there is a part of him that is disappointed he will not be playing Kyrgios.
British No.2 Norrie will instead take on unknown French qualifier Elliot Benchetrit.
“I think it would have been pretty entertaining, for sure, but it would have been tough to focus,” said Norrie of taking on Kyrgios.
Casper Ruud, Kyrgios’s opponent in Rome, claimed the Australian should be banned for six months, but Norrie is broadly supportive of Kyrgios.
“I don’t agree with that at all. I think that was pretty harsh of him to celebrate how he did after getting a default when Nick could have easily turned up on the day and chopped him probably in straight sets,” Norrie said.
“I think he’s great. There’s endless things on Twitter about the way he’s acting and stuff. I’m not saying it’s correct, but I like that he’s his own person. I think he does attract a lot of fans and he is good for tennis in a way.”
Norrie arrived in Paris at a career high of 41 in the world rankings after some encouraging results on clay, including qualifying and reaching the second round in Rome.
The 23-year-old has been hitting milestones at a seriously impressive rate ever since turning professional two years ago and is now within touching distance of becoming the top-ranked British man.