Nick Kyrgios banned for Shanghai tantrums
The ATP Tour has banned Nick Kyrgios until January 15 after he tanked in the second round of last week's Shanghai Masters.
Kyrgios's match against Russian qualifier Mischa Zverev descended into farce as he turned away from shots that were being hit at him, and at one point tapped a serve over the net in the style of a novice player - despite defending a break point at the time.
His actions drew a mixture of rage and sympathy, some calling for his head while others suggested that he is clearly a young man with serious problems who needs help more than demonisation.
And in an astonishing move which aims to satisfy both camps, the ATP Tour have told the controversial Australian that he can return to the sport next month if he agrees to go and see a sports psychologist to help him battle his demons.
As well as the ban, Kyrgios was hit with a further fine of $25,000 (£20,500). He had already been fined $16,500 in Shanghai for "violations of the Best Efforts provision", as well as abusing a spectator and "unsportsmanlike conduct".
THE ATP STATEMENT
"Following the completion of its investigation into Nick Kyrgios’ second round match last week at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, the ATP has announced that Kyrgios has been found to have committed the player major offense ‘Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game'," the ATP said in a statement.
"The offence means that Kyrgios receives an additional fine of US$ 25,000, and is suspended from ATP tournaments for eight tournament weeks, effective from today, Monday 17 October, 2016, through to Sunday 15 January, 2017.
"However, the suspension will be reduced to three tournament weeks upon agreement that the player enters a plan of care under the direction of a Sports Psychologist, or an equivalent plan approved by ATP, meaning Kyrgios could regain eligibility to compete on the ATP World Tour or Challenger Tour from Monday 7 November, 2016."
ATP chief Chris Kermode also made a statement, calling Kyrgios's conduct "unacceptable, disrespectful to the sport, and its fans" but adding that "Nick is a phenomenal talent, and or hope is that he uses this time away from the Tour constructively and, with some support, is able to return to the competition with an improved mind-set and stronger than ever before."
The 21-year-old issued his own statement following the ATP decision:
"Following the ATP’s decision today I would like to take this opportunity to apologise again for the circumstances in Shanghai. The season has been a long one as I battled several injuries and other challenges towards the end of the summer. The Asian circuit was particularly tough after the long week and win in Tokyo and with the travel throughout the continent, my body finally just gave out in Shanghai both physically and mentally.
"This is no excuse, and I know very well that I need to apologise to the fans – in Shanghai and in other parts of the world – as well as the tournament organisers in Shanghai who do an amazing job.
"I of course know how important the fans are to the success of our sport and I personally love the interaction with fans in the many different cities throughout the world on the tennis circuit. I am someone who gives a huge amount of time to my fans because I love and value their support. Their energy is what motivates me to reach for the top of the game.
"I regret that my year is ending this way and that I will not have a chance to continue chasing the ATP Finals. This was an important goal for me. I do understand and respect the decision by the ATP and I will use this time off to improve on and off the court. I am truly sorry and look forward to returning in 2017."
Kyrgios is an enormously talented player, one who really could join the likes of Alexander Zverev as one of the new faces of men's tennis over the next ten years.
But his status as a future Grand Slam winner is being jeopardised by his behaviour - what we saw in Shanghai goes beyond the usual antics, crassness and ingratitude we've come to expect from Kyrgios.
Worse, from the sounds of his statement, he seems to have no intention of pursuing the invitation to get some help - instead resigning himself to taking a few months' off - a break which is timed to coincide with the off-season in any case, so he's not missing any significant tournament action.
No doubt he feels that an extended break is all that he really needs. But he'd do well to heed the advice coming his way.
Bad boys of the past - including the likes of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi - have reformed their behaviour and gone on to become legends of the sport. But each got plenty of help along the way - and that is what Kyrgios needs now.