Nick Kyrgios talks stardom, haters, overcoming suicidal thoughts and tennis future in new episode of On Purpose with Jay Shetty.
By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Monday, December 11, 2023
Nick Kyrgios concedes he’s had a long love-hate relationship with tennis.
These days, Kyrgios says he’s in a positive place and at peace with closing the curtain on his competitive career in a couple years.
The 28-year-old Kyrgios talks stardom, haters, overcoming suicidal thoughts and tennis future in new episode of the On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast.
Kyrgios, who will miss next month’s Australian Open continuing his recovery from knee surgery, said he plans to step away from the sport in a couple of years.
“I’ve kind of come to peace with, I only wanna play for about another one to two years and, and be at the top and, and go down my own terms,” Kyrgios told Jay Shetty. “Like I would hate to have another surgery or anything like that. So I think I’ve still got the ability to have a good one to two years and then that’s it.
“I think I’ll be at peace with everything I’ve achieved and, you’re right. I’m gonna have to just say, look to everyone out there who wants me to play more. You’re just gonna have to be okay with me not playing anymore.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Kyrgios reveals his past battles with suicidal thoughts—he shares he contemplated suicide standing on his Acapulco hotel balcony in 2019—was driven to self-harming by his depression and social media criticism and once spent time in the psychiatric ward of a London hospital during Wimbledon.
“I was drinking every night. You know, just at the time I thought it was just fun, but it wasn’t fun. It was just self inflicted pain,” Kyrgios told Jay Shetty. “And I had friends around me telling me it wasn’t healthy and I ignored them. And then I found myself going to a psychiatric ward in London and I had to play an Nadal the next day.
“Everyone would assume that I was doing fine. I was answering questions and they told me that I should stay in this psychiatric ward for two weeks and be reassessed. And I was playing Nadal the next day. It’s like, I looked at myself. I was like, I can’t do this. I have to somehow change these habits.
“So I had self harm everywhere. I had to wear an arm sleeve on the center court of Wimbledon and no one knew any of these problems. And it was, it was hard. And I look back and I just don’t know how I like got out of it to be honest, I was such a mess. And the worst thing was the media, I was having decent results during that time. And the media was like, okay, is this a new Nick Kyrgios? Is this the Nick Kyrgios? And I was like, this is the darkest period of my life.”
The 2022 Australian Open doubles champion recalls hitting rock bottom in Acapulco where he considered suicide.
“There was a tournament in Mexico, Acapulco, where I was thinking about, I was having suicidal thoughts and, you know, I was just on the balcony of my hotel and I was genuinely thinking about it,” Kyrgios said. “And my team was like, Oh, we’ve got to play in 10 minutes.
“And then I’m going out on court, played amazing, won the tournament. And everyone globally was thinking, wow, is this the person that we’ve all been waiting for when I was really on the brink of everything. And that’s so scary because no one else knew what was going on. It was really hard.”
Canberra native Kyrgios also shares he’s sick of feeling “like a circus animal” on court and says his 2019 mental health struggles and the fact some fans want to see a freak show when he plays is emotionally “exhausting.”
“Like if I had a bit of a normal career and I flew under the radar, I don’t feel I’d feel this way,” Kyrgios said.
“But those couple years really, I think, put a lot on my age, like I’m 28, but I feel like, you know, I’ve traveled to pretty much every country I’ve seen cultures, you know, I was traveling to. countries when I was 13 and I saw what, you know, poverty was like, it really opened my eyes and I guess those couple of years accelerated my, almost pushed me to the end of my career a bit earlier because I was just, I felt that way.
“And I was so eternally hurting that I had to play for more than myself. And that’s why now I do, I’m exhausted when I train, I’m like, I just. And I don’t want people to watch this and say, okay, soft or whatever, but it’s just like, it’s just hard. Like I am tired. I’m, I’m tired of playing tennis. Like it’s, it’s more than going out last year, had the best year of my career and I’m playing in front of millions of people, stadiums packed out, everyone’s eyes on me.
“I don’t know if I’m an athlete loves that, but I’m a bit to that, I feel like a circus animal a little bit. I walk out there and like, Oh, we just want to see Kiros do something crazy. Like I’m sick of kind of playing that role. I’m sick of playing, like I have to turn to completely different person and I don’t like that. It’s exhausting.”
Ultimately, Kyrgios said strong support from family, friends, his girlfriend—and the inspiration he draws from his young fans—helped him climb out of a bleak and deep depression and recognize the positives of his life.
“I hated tennis when I was young. So, you know, I was very chubby, overweight as a kid,” Kyrgios said. “And my mom kinda, she was like, okay, we’ve got to get you doing some, some, some sport or be active. So she dragged me down to the local tennis courts. And I remember I was crying all day, hated it. Didn’t want to be there anyway.
“I gave it a chance for like, you know, a couple of weeks, couple of months. And the coach was like, Oh, he’s picking it up pretty quickly. And then that was, I guess that was a defining moment because ever since that coach said that it’s like my father and my mom put everything into it. tennis, you know, they sacrificed, you know, my dad and my mom had nothing growing up.”
The desire to set a good example for young fans who have inspired him has helped shift Kyrgios’ perspective as well.
“I felt like I was playing just based on how I felt, and then I looked back at millions of fans that I have,” Kyrgios said. “For instance, there was a Make A Wish kid that I met up with a week and a half ago, he’s probably got six months to live, and then I realized that those types of people that look up to me and really want me to succeed, that’s who I started playing for, so family, these, Like kids, the future generation.
“That’s the reason why I probably would have retired and probably stopped playing a couple of years ago if, if I just kept playing on how I was feeling. But then I realized I’ve got a whole contingent of fans on why they want to see me succeed.
“So that’s why I love playing now. Like I play for them, but that’s what got me out of it. I started feeling like I’ve got a lot more to give.”
Photo credit: On Purpose with Jay Shetty