After his second-round loss to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon this year, Nick Kyrgios sat down in his chair for his post-match press conference and took a deep breath.
From the first question, Kyrgios made it known that did not want to be there.
“Going to the pub last night, do you think you could have played a bit better if you hadn’t?” a reporter asked.
“No. You look way too excited to ask that question,” Kyrgios replied. “You must have a really boring life.”
Throughout the 15-minute press conference, the 24-year-old Australian displayed his mercurial personality, occasionally laughing at questions, and then, moments later, shaking his head and glaring at journalists for asking questions he didn’t like.
That personality has made him one of the most polarizing players in tennis. Some fans appreciate his candor and the levity and entertainment value he brings to tennis. Other fans can’t stand him, and believe he is disrespecting the sport with his unconventional demeanor.
Either way, the spotlight tends to find Kyrgios, and while reporting this week’s sports column on how pro tennis players approach their media obligations, I wanted to chat with Kyrgios about his sometimes contentious relationship with the press.
Below is our interview, which took place on July 27 before his appearance with the Washington Kastles, a World TeamTennis franchise owned by City Paper owner Mark Ein. It has been slightly edited for clarity.
WCP: When did you feel like you started getting media attention?
Nick Kyrgios: I probably started getting a little bit of media attention globally at 19 when I made that breakthrough at Wimbledon. Pretty much ever since then it’s been pretty full-on. My personality and the way I play the game is a lot different than what people have seen before. It kinda from that day forward, obligations, and obviously responsibility came with that.
WCP: Did you get training from your parents, like this is what is going to happen, or did you just take it as it went?
NK: We got a little bit of media training when I was younger, but I don’t think I was ready mentally. I don’t think I was mature enough to deal with the spotlight. Obviously it was tough. Everything I was doing on and off the court was being monitored. It was tough. I was expected to win a lot more matches, and when you lost, those losses came at a price. The media would notice those more than the wins almost. But I mean, it was tough. You have to do it straight after you play. A lot of media commitments leading into tournaments, leading into events like tonight. But the more you win, the higher up you get, I guess it comes with the territory.
WCP: When was your first press conference? Do you remember that?
NK: I was pretty young. I was only 18 when I played my first Australian Open. The media has been pretty heavy in Australia for a long time now. I did a press conference pretty early on in my career. So I was about 18.
WCP: I asked Coco Gauff how she adjusted from not getting much attention to all these people showing up to her press conferences. She said she’s not used to them yet. How long did it take you to get used to that spotlight?
NK: I don’t think I’m completely used to it at the moment. It’s something I’m still dealing with and trying to deal with better. But I think Coco has a great team around her. She’s so young and she’s going to do pretty special things in this sport. I think she’s going to win Grand Slams, multiple Grand Slam champion, so she’s going to have a pretty good media team around her and pretty good team around her. I think she’s going to deal with it a little better than I have.
WCP: You seem pretty comfortable being yourself. You’re candid and unfiltered with the media. Do you think you approach it differently than other players?
NK: I’m not sure how they approach it. I understand they’re always trying to say the right things. You can use that as a platform for sponsor or whatever to carry yourself a certain way, even if that’s not how you are in person. For me, I just go in and try to answer the questions as honest as possible. That’s what I’ve done for practically my whole career and I’m happy with the way I go in there and try to be myself. But there’s definitely times where maybe I could’ve worded something a little differently, or gone about it a little differently. But I can’t really change anything about it now.
WCP: What do you think about the media obligations?
NK: Personally, I’m not really a fan and I don’t really like it. But I understand in today’s society it’s an important thing. It’s how people read about the game, attract new fans, make money, all that type of stuff. So I completely understand why it’s necessary, but to say I’m a fan of it, I’m probably not.
WCP: I know you’re a fan of team sports. In NBA locker rooms, players can kind of sneak out or hide behind teammates. Do you think it’s different in tennis, because it’s so individual?
NK: For sure. I love the team environment. I’m a massive basketball fan. I love playing in any sort of team event, it’s a lot of fun for me. I think in the NBA, you do joint press conferences as well at times. I think it’s a lot of fun. But yeah I dunno, I don’t think I’m the biggest fan of [press conferences].
WCP: You had a good doubles press conference with your Wimbledon mixed doubles partner Desirae Krawczyk.
NK: Yeah. [Laughs] It was funny.
WCP: Roger Federer did a recent Vogue interview, and one of his answers was that he didn’t really trust the media when he was younger. It took him a while to trust the media. Now he likes to do interviews and the attention. What’s your relationship with the media in your mind?
NK: I don’t like it. I don’t like the media in general. I think they try to spin things the way they want people to see them. They generally give a lot of false information, and make people see one side of the things.
WCP: In sports?
NK: In sports and in general. In sports, they kind of like to beat down on someone who struggles. I understand it as well. The bigger the story, the bigger the paycheck. I completely understand where it’s coming from, but I’m not a fan of it. I don’t trust them at all.
WCP: I think for me, I like when athletes are honest and candid. Is that how you approach it as well?
NK: Yeah, I’m going to give you my honest answer. Otherwise what’s the point of doing this interview?
WCP: One of the hard parts is that you kind of get the same questions over and over. What are some of the more challenging parts of this process?
NK: Interviews like this aren’t too bad. I think it’s more the ones where you’ve come off court and you’re obviously dealing with the emotions of losing and you might’ve had a bad day and you kinda know what kinds of questions are going to come. In that moment you think you’re going to deal with them a lot better than you do. I’ve walked into press conferences knowing what kind of questions are going to come at me. When you’re sitting there and you see who’s asking it, and you understand they’re only asking not because they genuinely care but because they kind of want you to bite on it and retaliate on their question, it makes you frustrated. I think the toughest part of it is have some discipline and just sometimes be the bigger man and not retaliate to their question. It’s not easy. It’s not as easy as it seems to just walk in there and be good with all the questions.
WCP: How difficult is it to have this as part of your job?
NK: I mean it’s not too bad. I can think of a lot of worse things. It’s really not bad at all. I chatted with people 15 to 20 minutes and then it’s done. It’s not the worst thing.
WCP: When you’re at press conferences, do you feel you respond differently based on who’s asking the question?
NK: It’s a unique question. I think yes and no, depends on what mood I’m feeling. I’ve seen some ask some pretty personal and negative questions with a little smirk on their face. They want to get under your skin. They want to be kinda malicious in what they’re asking. For sure, the way they ask it is big for me, I think.
WCP: How much tougher is it to do after a loss? Does it make a difference?
NK: Yeah, after a win I tend to do all the professional things. I’ll shower, ice bath, eat my food and calm down a little bit before I do my press conference. But when I lose, I kinda just want to get out of the venue. I don’t want to hang around. So I guess a lot of emotions are there still, and that’s probably the hard thing. I don’t want to hang around for 45 [minutes] to an hour waiting around just for media. I just want to try and get out of there. I think doing media after a loss is much harder. I just don’t think you’re thinking clear. I think you’re still kinda acting on emotions from the match.
WCP: Why do you think you’re so much more unfiltered than other players?
NK: I don’t know. I guess they’re maybe trying to protect their reputation or image they’re trying to be, which they’re not. I know these all guys off the court as well but I get it. They’re all trying to keep it clean cut image for sponsors and all that. I completely understand it.
WCP: You said earlier you’re not yet comfortable with it all yet.
NK: Yeah, I’m still learning how to deal with the spotlight. It’s not easy, you know. I just try—it’s not easy. I feel like myself, I’m under the spotlight a lot more than most tennis players. It can be a guy ranked seven in the world that’s getting 1/12th of the media I’m getting, and I’m not playing half of the tournaments as he is. I’m still getting to know how to deal with it.
WCP: What do you wish you knew at a young age about the attention you would be getting and your response to it?
NK: I dunno, I guess you kinda gotta go through it. It’s different for everybody. I think the main thing is—even if I did more media training or less before I got into it, I still think I would’ve dealt with it the same. I feel like I had to go through a lot of things to do deal with it better for sure.
WCP: Did you have to do ATP University? Did you get anything out of that?
NK: Well I actually did it with one of my good friends, [British pro tennis player] Dan Evans. And we kinda, we didn’t really concentrate that much.
WCP: The British press is notorious for being…
NK: Australian media is by far the worst. By far. It’s by far the worst media in the world.
WCP: What’s so bad about it?
NK: You can just type in my name, and you can get a bunch of stuff from that.