Tennis Australia is on a collision course with the AOC after backing Nick Kyrgios as the country’s brightest Olympic medal hope on court in Rio.
Disappointed at Australia’s Olympic team boss once again targeting Kyrgios, TA on Friday night issued a statement supporting the under-fire world No.20.
“Since the disciplinary action taken against Nick last year, he’s made a concerted effort to improve his performance and behaviour, and full credit to him,” said TA president Steve Healy.
“It’s unfortunate that he’s been included unfairly in recent discussions on player behaviour that have not involved him.
“His performances this year have been markedly improved and it’s obvious he’s showing more maturity.
“Only world No.1 Novak Djokovic has beaten more top-10 players than Nick this year.
“Nick deserves the opportunity to concentrate on his tennis without any additional distractions.”
The AOC’s chef de mission Kitty Chiller earlier on Friday attempted to place the ball in Kyrgios’s court if he wanted to go to the Rio Games in the wake of Bernard Tomic’s withdrawal.
Declining to speculate on whether world No.22 Tomic had beaten selectors to the punch by ruling himself out on Friday from the Games, Chiller claimed Kyrgios didn’t understand what it meant to be an Australian Olympian.
But she made it clear what she thought of Kyrgios, saying she would be appalled if anyone repeated his on-court antics at an Olympics.
Asked if Australia risked potential embarrassment if they picked the two-time grand slam quarter-finalist, Chiller said: “I would be appalled. I would be embarrassed as a leader of the team if any of our Olympians behaved with disrespect.”
Tomic and Kyrgios were placed on notice by Chiller last week after a raft of behavioural issues on and off the court.
Kyrgios made light of it via social media, referring to the team boss as “that Kitty Chiller” and all but daring selectors to overlook him for Rio at a recent post-match media conference.
“We have had nothing official except for some ill advised, shall I say, comments about me and what it means to be an Olympian,” she said of Kyrgios’s response.
“I think some of Nick’s comments in social media have shown that maybe he doesn’t understand what it means to be an Australian Olympian.
“It is not just about winning on the court – it’s about how you go about it.”
Tennis Australia officials are known to be privately mystified that Chiller would expect to have heard from Kyrgios and are set to nominate the 21-year-old next month for Olympic selection.
Tomic’s selection was under a cloud after he deliberately gave up a match point at a Madrid tournament, saying he didn’t care because he was 23 and worth $10 million.
Tomic said he based his decision to withdraw from Rio on what was best for his career.
“It’s his choice. We only want people in our team who want to be there and prepared to abide by what that team means,” Chiller said.
Asked if Tomic had saved selectors the trouble of snubbing him, Chiller said: “That’s irrelevant now.
“Thousands of Australians would give anything, devote their whole lives to be an Olympian and adhere to what that means.
“If someone doesn’t see the value in that then that’s their loss.”
Tomic will bypass Rio to play at an ATP World Tour tournament in Los Cabos, Mexico.
The event has replaced a Bogota tournament Tomic has won the past two years, meaning he will be defending significant rankings points.