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COMMENT: If Nick Kyrgios is truly devoted to accountability, he should start with himself

Nick Kyrgios at Australian Open

If there is one thing that Nick Kyrgios has proven during his career – aside from the fact he is a richly talented tennis player – it is that he struggles with accountability.

I don’t think that is an even remotely controversial thing to say.

Kyrgios’ list of on-court misdemeanours is lengthy and, while a case can certainly be made that it makes him tennis box office, you rarely get the sense that anything is ever really going to change.

If he was going to change, he surely would have by now. And that’s fine, by the way. Kyrgios is what he is and he has every right to express, project, and assert his personality any way he sees fit.

What that does do, though, is somewhat negate his suitability to judge anyone else, which is a shame because he seems to have a passion for it. Much more so, it often seems, than the passion he has for tennis itself.

Nick Kyrgios Australian Open

"When he was doing some of the things he was doing during the global pandemic, it just wasn't the right time,” Kyrgios told CNN of Novak Djokovic this week before making a vow.

"I know everyone makes mistakes, some of us go off track sometimes, and I think we have to hold each other accountable.

"We're colleagues at the end of the day; we compete against each other, we play in the same sport.

"No one else was really holding him (Djokovic) accountable. Everyone loses their way a little bit but I think he just needs to pull it back.

"I'm not doing any of this sort of stuff for media attention: these are the morals I've grown up with and I was just trying to do my part."

The problem isn’t necessarily with what Kyrgios said, although it’s not an opinion I share personally, but more with who was saying it.

For starters, Kyrgios has persistently targeted Djokovic for more than 18-months now, to the point where it is entirely impossible to view anything he says about the Serbian as even remotely objective.

It was May 2019 when he told the No Challenges Remaining Podcast that he thought Djokovic was ‘cringeworthy’ and admitted he ‘couldn’t stand him,’ so for him to try to now claim any criticism is borne of objectively is frankly ridiculous.

Novak Djokovic ATP Finals

That berating of Djokovic has continued since. We have lazily called it a ‘spat’ before, but that’s not strictly true given criticism and consternation only ever travels in one direction. It’s targeted abuse fueled by a personal dislike, simple as that.

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But not only are there serious issues with the objectivity of Kyrgios’ comments, but there basic credibility too.

Every single criticism that Kyrgios has laid at the feet of Djokovic in his latest tirade can also be levelled at him, and when that happens Kyrgios’ supposed thirst for colleagues holding each other accountable seems to mysteriously vanish.

Whenever another tennis player references Kyrgios’ mistakes, almost exclusively after he has first targeted them, he immediately goes on the attack.

Borna Coric wasn’t thanked for holding Kyrgios accountable for responding to the Australian’s criticism of him with a polite reminder that has own behaviour has not exactly been the best, he got publicly branded a ‘peanut brain’ for his troubles.

When Karen Khachanov attempted to hold Kyrgios accountable for what many considered a lack of respect shown to a former world number one, he got called an ‘absolute pelican.’

There are obviously other examples too, many of which have happened on the court itself where Kyrgios’ behaviour towards not just his fellow professionals has been seriously lacking, but officials and even supporters too.

Where was his supposedly dogged devotion to tennis players setting a good example then? You know, when it was badly needed and wholly within his control?

And why, if he is so determined to hold Djokovic ‘accountable’ do we only hear from him when he sees the chance to criticise?

Why wasn’t there as much noise made in praise for Djokovic when he was donating literally millions of Euros to help fight coronavirus, or giving money, time, and his profile to help fight the Australian bushfire crisis last year?

Nick Kyrgios looking on

Kyrgios can talk about ‘the morals he has been brought up with,’ but there was a man helping to fight for two particular causes that are clearly close to the 25-year-old’s heart, yet he leaps at the chance to publicly abuse him instead.

Ultimately, Kyrgios’ protestations that he is innocently serving some greater good in his constant berating of Djokovic simply don’t stand up to even the merest smear of scrutiny.

Is Novak Djokovic perfect? No, of course not. Has he made mistakes? Absolutely, but if there is anyone in tennis who has shown willing to hold himself accountable then it is Djokovic. With him, mistakes and controversies are almost always followed quickly by apologies or acknowledgments.

The same can not be said of Kyrgios who, as far as the ATP disciplinary council are concerned at least, has made more mistakes in terms of desired behaviour on a tennis court than anyone, yet he remains the most brazen figure imaginable.

If Kyrgios is truly devoted to holding people accountable, he should first master it on his own behalf.

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