'Not easy to see': Nick Kyrgios' claims about 'coloured' tennis players

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Pictured here, Nick Kyrgios has discussed challenges around race in the sport of tennis.
Nick Kyrgios says the culture of tennis is tougher for 'coloured' players like himself.

Nick Kyrgios is never shy about speaking his mind and the Aussie tennis star has opened up about the discrimination he's faced in the sport because of the colour of his skin.

The Aussie firebrand admits he has a love-hate relationship with tennis and has often been painted as a bad boy of the game, due to his on-court antics and strong opinions.

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However, the 25-year-old also claims that the sport is inherently a "white gentleman's sport", making acceptance of him and other "coloured" players in the game difficult for some.

Kyrgios delves into several issues as the first subject in an upcoming series on the ABC called Reputation Rehab, which looks at whether he is able to change public perceptions about him.

He makes an explosive claim that the culture of the sport is underpinned by elements of racism.

“It’s supposed to be a nice white gentleman’s sport,” said Kyrgios, whose father is Greek and mother is Malaysian.

“So seeing someone coloured like myself go out there, be different and be successful, it’s not so easy to see at times.”

Kyrgios' mother Norlaila echoed some of those sentiments and revealed that as a younger player, the Aussie was often targeted with "racist" attacks.

“At the beginning it was dreadful … I wanted to guard him,” she said.

“How do you guard someone from all that negativity?

“Some of them were racist, some of them were just terrible.”

Kyrgios admits that he is a bad loser and coupled with his opinionated and outspoken nature, probably makes him an easy target for critics.

Pictured here, men's tennis stars Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic.
Nick Kyrgios slammed Novak Djokovic for organising a tennis tournament during tennis' coronavirus shutdown. Pic: Getty

“I never accept losing, I’m pretty bad at that,” he said.

“I don’t think accepting losing is a good thing but maybe not being so harsh on the players is a good thing.

“I’ve definitely had a bit of a relationship with tennis, it’s a love-hate thing.

“I love what I can get out of the sport. A lot of young kids look up to me now, and I can give back, but at times tennis, it’s a s**t sport. It’s so frustrating.

“You have to be incredibly patient, and losing sucks, and you lose a lot in tennis, but there are times when I love the grind, I love training, I love putting in but there are times where I hate it.”

Famous win thrust spotlight on Kyrgios

Kyrgios said the 2014 Wimbledon victory over Rafael Nadal thrust him into a spotlight that he simply wasn't ready for at such a young age.

“I’ve been through a lot. It all happened so quick for me,” he said.

“I wasn’t used to having cameras in my face, being in the spotlight.

“After Wimbledon when I beat Nadal everything kind of changed. There were people camping outside my house for two weeks when I got back home, following me around when I went to the mall, so I wasn’t really ready for the dramatic changes that I was experiencing.”

Seen here, Nick Kyrgios celebrates his Wimbledon victory over Rafael Nadal in 2014.
Kyrgios announced himself to the world with a famous 2014 Wimbledon win over Rafael Nadal. Pic: Getty

While Kyrgios seems as opinionated as ever, there is plenty of evidence a growing sense of maturity for the 25-year-old.

The Aussie does lots of charitable work around his NK Foundation, which helps provide sporting facilities to underprivileged or disadvantaged youth.

He has also been one of sport's most outspoken advocates of safe coronavirus practices, often hitting out at his peers for their failure to follow protocols.

Certainly his mum is of the opinion that over time, the Aussie star has every chance of shaking his "bad boy" image.

“I think you can shake the image but it takes time,” she said.

“It takes hard work to try to do good, and one little mistake will put you back many steps.

“That’s always the way it is but that’s our journey at the moment, so we just embrace it.”

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