Comment: Nick Kyrgios’ dirty little secret laid bare
NICK Kyrgios grinned as he walked into the Australian Open main press conference amphitheatre beneath Rod Laver Arena - and it's the thing that hurts the most.
Just like his endless talent and enthralling flare on the court, Kyrgios' explanations during his press conference were just as volatile and seemingly contradictory.
In one sentence he says he is bummed for his family. The next sentence he says he's not beating himself up. "The world keeps on spinning," he said.
One sentence he's claiming a banged up body, mostly due to the same knee complaint he has carried throughout the summer, was behind his five-set capitulation and second-round exit from the Australian Open at the hands of Andreas Seppi on Wednesday night.
The next sentence he admits his collapse from the end of the second set was all to do with his mental frailties.
One sentence he rubbishes justified criticism from legend John McEnroe and the next sentence he admits he needs to take full responsibility for his amateur approach to an overly professional game.
Then he drops one little admission that perfectly sums up the unpredictable star.
"I just like being comfortable," he said.
It's a seemingly human declaration to make, but, boiled down, it's the reason he is the most controversial figure in Australian sport. Passionately adored while also purely loathed.
One way or the other, you've already made up your mind about this impossible 21-year-old.
Personally, this hack only made up his mind about the promising player the moment he strolled into that press conference smirking.
My resolve that Kyrgios' good qualities washed out his infuriating qualities stayed firm through his ATP Tour suspension for tanking against Mischa Zverev at the Shanghai Masters last year.
Even when he refused to apologise to fans and claimed he didn't "owe them anything", I still believed tennis was better with Nick Kyrgios in it.
But after seeing that broad grin as he walked out to face the music at his press conference, I was done.
He should have been aching. The loss to Seppi, which seemed unimaginable with Kyrgios flying up two sets to love, screamed to be the turning point that ended the Kyrgios madness.
Instead of a promise to turn things around, the best he could muster was a vague declaration that he is serious about finding a coach. That was it.
Don't be fooled. He made similar vague promises after losing to Andy Murray at Wimbledon last year. Nothing eventuated.
There was just enough regret in his tone when speaking about the people he has let down to once again draw you in and trigger that impulse that tells you he may not actually be such a bad guy.
This impulse is a cheap cop out.
One of the most hated qualities of Kyrgios' is that he doesn't try. He doesn't want to try.
He doesn't show remorse for not trying and he proudly rubs your face in the fact that he doesn't care that he feels no remorse for not trying.
This impulse tells you this peak-brat quality is simply a defence mechanism for an overwhelmed young adult thrust in front of an international audience.
It's a cop out. Nick's contradictory answers show he knows what he is supposed to do and what he's supposed to say.
He even does it when it suits him.
It's not a defence mechanism to protect him from getting his feelings hurt.
You can only look at the full contradiction that is Nick Kyrgios and conclude that this defence mechanism is designed to hide his dirty little secret.
He does care what you think.
He wants you to like him and he wants to win tennis matches. He's just not prepared to work for it. It's so much easier to say he doesn't care than to admit to himself that he wants it, but that his ego gets in the way. That ego is stopping him from becoming a potential superstar.
That ego tells him he doesn't need to make a real go of his pre-season training. It gives him permission to play basketball and risk injuring that troublesome knee. It gives him permission to continue to play without a coach. It tells him that an ATP Tour ranking of No. 13 in the world is fine.
Right now he is comfortable enough where he is and he just wants to keep having fun.
His loss to Seppi has changed nothing and that's what hurts.
"That's how it's been my whole career really," Kyrgios said.
"I put my head down, want it. But things happen. It's just me not being able to be consistent, not really wanting it. Stuff like that happens.
"I knew that for a long time. I kind of like the freedom of just going out there, doing whatever, going with the flow a little bit. I just like being comfortable."
Let's call a spade a spade. It's not Kyrgios' immaturity or inability to handle the spotlight holding him back, he's just bloody lazy.