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Comment: Nick Kyrgios continues to be hated many Australians, but he has never behaved as badly as some footballers

ABC News logo ABC News 22/08/2017 By Dan Colasimone

Flog.

This is the word that comes up most often in the comments for articles about Nick Kyrgios. It doesn't matter if it's a story about him winning a tennis match, losing a tennis match, saying something ridiculous or saying something nice.

It has become an office joke here at the ABC that anything we publish about the 22-year-old tennis player will be met with that same response on Twitter and in the Facebook comments.

"Flog!"

It can only be in a similar spirit that news.com.au announced the news of the Canberran's loss in the final of the Cincinnati Masters event to Grigor Dimitrov on Monday: "Nick Kyrgios flops in historic title bid".

It is a headline dripping with schadenfreude.

Here is a young player who has put together just about the best week of tennis we've seen from an Australian male in years.

In a Masters event, just one notch below a slam, he beat the veteran Ivo Karlovic, ranked 34 in the world. He beat the wily David Ferrer, ranked number 25 and one of the toughest guys to get through in any tournament. He beat Alexandr Dolgopolov and world number 13 David Goffin. He blitzed world number one Rafael Nadal.

Kyrgios played twinkling tennis. When at his best he solicits more 'oohs' and 'aahs' from tennis crowds than anyone on the circuit, barring perhaps Roger Federer. He had Cincinnati in the palm of his hand.

But he fell short in the final against Dimitrov, the 26-year-old, 2-metre Bulgarian world number eight, playing at the height of his game. Throughout the tournament, aside from being brilliant, Kyrgios was well-behaved and gracious. He had kind words for Dimitrov and charmed the crowd by praising their city and inviting them all out to ice cream next time he's in town.

And yet some in the Australian media took the opportunity to stick the boot in over the loss by calling it a "flop", knowing full well it would appeal to a certain segment of their audience — the flog mob.

"Haha typical Australian media," was Kyrgios's reaction on Twitter. And he's right to be bemused by the headline. You can almost see the satisfied smirk on the face of the sub who wrote it.

Kyrgios is a flawed athlete. He has made mistakes. The worst thing he has done in the public eye was to make a gross and nasty comment about Stan Wawrinka's girlfriend. On the court, his biggest weakness is his lack of drive, which sometimes sees him practically quit mid-match.

A big mouth with no filter and a tendency to tank are problems for a professional athlete. But why does Kyrgios continue to attract such pearl-clutching contempt when other sportsmen, especially those in our football codes, do and say much worse all the time?

For an NRL player, a big performance in a State of Origin game seems to erase months or years of nefarious behaviour, as far as public perception is concerned.

An AFL footballer on a bender is just that — a young bloke cutting loose with his mates — whereas Kyrgios on a night out is a cue for handwringing and moral outrage, as we saw recently.

As far as we know, Kyrgios has never hit a girlfriend, manhandled a random woman at a bar, punched anyone at a nightclub, dry-humped a family pet or relieved himself in a hotel corridor while black-out drunk.

But many Australians can't let go of the fact he once took on-court heckling way too far or sometimes appears not to care.

It's funny, because the rest of the world finds him fascinating. The New Yorker and the New York Times have both done major profiles of the Australian in the past year, while the British press loves to splash attention on him ahead of every Wimbledon.

Yes, they come down hard on him when he stuffs up, as witnessed in the Wawrinka episode or the tanking cases, but nowhere do they hold on to their Kyrgios grudges as grimly as in Australia.

Americans especially love a precocious talent with a chip on his shoulder. They called John McEnroe a brat, which is practically a compliment in the US. They could have called him much worse, his behaviour was atrocious. And we call Kyrgios a flog.

Will Kyrgios ever be fully appreciated in this country for his talents?

Perhaps if he goes on to become world number one and stays there for a while, the majority of Australians will jump on the bandwagon and decide they really kinda like him now, as they did with Lleyton Hewitt, who once had a rocky relationship with the public.

Until then, having a top-20 ranked tennis player should be something Australian sport fans are more appreciative of, especially one who is fascinating to watch and has the skill set to become the best in the world.

It's time to get behind Kyrgios. Stop being flogs about it.

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