Nick Kyrgios has apologised for branding his entourage “retarded” and won over the British media in some welcome relief for the embattled tennis star.
Four days after Bernard Tomic was forced to apologise for saying he was “left standing on court like a retard”, Kyrgios upset learning disability groups in similar fashion.
Kyrgios let fly at his courtside box, including his father and agent, for not offering enough vocal support during his third-round win over Feliciano Lopez.
“It’s all in the heat of battle. I know some people can obviously get offended by that. I’m not meaning to be rude or disrespectful at all,” he said after booking a centre-court showstopper with Andy Murray on Monday.
Murray, too, has earned a reputation for ranting often – and loudly – at his box over the years, prompting one local reporter to ask Kyrgios what he needed specifically from his support group during a match.
“Sometimes I’m just a pest,” Kyrgios said.
“They’re always doing the best they can do. It’s obviously in the heat of the battle.
“Everything I say and everything I do out there, they all know I love them. So it’s okay.”
After a week of baiting from the British tabloids, Kyrgios the self-styled tennis “entertainer” won back the locals with his refreshing honesty before revealing how his locker-room bromance with Murray first came about.
“It was love at first sight,” he said, smiling and looking relaxed in the press room for the first time all tournament.
“Yeah, I think our relationship’s pretty good. We joke a lot. Obviously when he’s in the locker room, it’s just instant banter. We just have a lot of fun.
“He’s a very relaxed guy, down-to-earth. He baits me a lot of time. He’s always very funny. It helps.
“He’s a great guy. I’m just looking forward to going out there. I’m obviously relaxed, I’m nervous as well. I’m looking forward to going out there with him.”
Kyrgios’s insight into the locker room – and lighter side of Murray, who’s widely seen as a dour Scot – left the Fleet Street pack abuzz.
“When I see Roger (Federer), everyone sort of just looks at Roger. Roger has an aura about him.
“I think he’s the greatest player of all time. I just watch him. I don’t say anything. It’s the same with Novak (Djokovic).
“But Andy, I don’t know, it’s different.
“When Andy walks in, we see each other, we just give each other a look. We can’t stop looking at each other for a bit.”
Kyrgios, though, vowed to cast their friendship aside and conquer the home hero and reach the quarter-finals for the second time in three years.