The player who benefited from Nick Kyrgios’ Shanghai tanking meltdown has urged fans to forgive and forget because tennis’ polarising ‘bad boy’ is actually one of the nicest guys on the ATP Tour.
German veteran Mischa Zverev rates Kyrgios as a “genius” and says that means he’ll never take the conventional approach to the sport.
Zverev is preparing to play Rafael Nadal in the second round of the Brisbane International on Thursday while on the other side of the country Kyrgios is making a strong comeback from his eight-week ATP suspension in the Hopman Cup.
The world No.13 was slammed at home and abroad by fans and former greats after giving up on points and arguing with fans and the chair umpire at the Shanghai Masters in October.
Critics said his behaviour, coming a year after his unsavoury sledge at Stan Wawrinka, showed disrespect to opponent Zverev, a claim the world No.51 rubbished.
“We were cool, we were riding back in a golf car to the locker room (together chatting) and he’s such a nice guy,” 29-year-old Zverev told AAP.P
“He’s one of the nicest guys in the locker room. He will always say hi and remember you and ask you how you are.
“Even if he had a bad day and he lost he would always respect you and smile and come up to you and say hi.”
Russian-born Zverev likened Kyrgios to his own younger brother Alexander, 19, who became the youngest player since Novak Djokovic a decade ago to break into the top-20 in October.
He said the prodigies, like the best minds and athletes, are naturally left of centre.
“If you are a genius you are different,” he said. “You can’t be a genius and be completely normal otherwise it would never show.
“My brother is very different than I am and they are a similar age so I know what they are going through and it’s totally understandable.
“I’m not saying it’s good or bad but that’s his (Kyrgios’s) personality.”
Zverev felt Australian fans should let Kyrgios start 2017 with a clean slate.
“As a tennis player you work out there and everyone can watch you. If you have a bad day in the office everyone can see it.
“If other people have a bad day at work they smash the computer and no one knows about it and you start afresh the next day.
“It’s very human.
“You have to be professional and you have to behave but in the end you are just a human.
“Whether they like him or not, he is a great tennis player and he is very entertaining.”