The transformation of Nick Kyrgios continues with the world No 26 stating after his defeat Australian Open defeat to Rafael Nadal that he has “made progress as a human”.
The controversial Kyrgios will be the first to admit that he does not have the best of reputations on the ATP Tour as he has been accused of not giving his best while he has also not been afraid to voice his dislike of some of the sport’s elite like Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
In a 2019 poll by the Herald Sun about the most hated athletes of the year/decade, he came in second with Australians only putting South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, who was found guilty of killing his girlfriend, ahead of him.
However, Kyrgios has taken a lot of steps in the right direction in recent months and he was at the forefront of Australian bushfire relief efforts.
After announcing he would donate A$200 for every ace he served during the summer, the rest of the tennis community followed suit and more than A$5 million have already been raised.
The 24-year-old suffered a four-set defeat at the hands of Nadal in the last 16 at Melbourne Park on Monday, going down 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4).
“I’m shattered to have lost tonight… These are the matches that I want to win the most,” he said.
He added: “I feel like I’ve made progress as a human. A tennis player, I don’t really care about as much.”
Despite their touchy relationship, Nadal had plenty of praise for Kyrgios after their match.
“His talent is to be one of the best [players] of the world, without a doubt, with good chances to fight for every tournament,” the 19-time Grand Slam winner said.
Asked about the world No 1’s comments, Kyrgios replied: “I appreciate it. But I already know that. I’ve known that for the last four years.
“But the trouble for me is being able to actually just produce the same attitude over and over again. Hopefully I can keep doing it.”
Kyrgios also took time out to talk about how the death of NBA great Kobe Bryant affected him.
Former Los Angeles Lakers legend Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday.
Kyrgios is a big basketball fan and he arrived on Rod Laver Arena for the Nadal match wearing a No 8 Lakers jersey.
“If anything, it motivated me. If you look at the things he stood for, what he wanted to be remembered by, I felt like, if anything, it helped me tonight,” he said. “When I was down a break in the fourth, I was definitely thinking about it. I fought back.
“If anything, [the bushfires] did fuel me and made me play harder. They’re still going, everything is still going.
“The last month for me has been pretty hectic, pretty emotional. I’m pretty tired. I want to try to continue to help where I can.”
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