March 18, 2022
(Reuters) – Nick Kyrgios had a typically direct message for his hecklers after his loss to Rafa Nadal at Indian Wells on Thursday: “Don’t tell me how to play…just be quiet.”
The 26-year-old Australian unravelled on a number of occasions as he fell to a 7-6(0) 5-7 6-4 defeat and was hit with a code violation for yelling an audible obscenity at the first set tiebreak when he was 6-0 down.
Kyrgios maintained that the atmosphere of the match was “amazing” even as he repeatedly clashed with the crowd and chair umpire, and smashed his racket on two occasions.
“I just want people to know that you’re a spectator. You’ve bought tickets to come watch us play. At least don’t scream out before first and second serve,” Kyrgios said.
“I know when you play Rafa, 99% of the crowd is going to go for these guys. And I’m not asking for the crowd to go for me or cheer my name or go nuts for me when I’m winning or losing or anything.”
Last week, Naomi Osaka was thrown off her game and crashed out of Indian Wells after she was rattled by a heckler in her second round match.
Osaka began to cry after a person screamed, “Naomi, you suck!” early on in her eventual 6-0 6-4 loss to Veronika Kudermetova.
“For me it wasn’t so much similar to Osaka’s situation,” said Kyrgios, adding that he thought fan behaviour in all sports was getting worse. “I think it’s just this generation. Everyone feels like their opinion is valid.
“When you’re a spectator and you’re watching professionals play tennis, you should just be quiet. Don’t tell me how to play. Like, you could not win a single point against Rafa Nadal. Just sit on your seat and watch me play tennis. That’s it.
“And they think that they have some sort of right to scream out to players like they did to Osaka the other night. It affects people, we’re only human… I’m not perfect, but what I’m saying is you can’t do that to people.
“Just sit and enjoy the show we’re putting on, I thought it was a decent match. I thought it was a pretty high level match and I’m just asking for a little bit of respect.”
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)