Nick Kyrgios has slammed Australian tennis great Pat Cash, after the 1987 Wimbledon champion claimed Australian Open crowds have become ‘out of control’ in recent tournaments.
Speaking as part of an ABC tennis documentary Australia’s Open, which will air on Tuesday, January 16, the 58-year old expressed criticism for local crowds becoming too parochial when cheering on fellow Aussies, saying it was vital for fans to ‘have more respect’ for international players, or risk them not coming back.
“I think the Australian crowds in the last 10 years have got a little out of control,” Cash said.
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“Cheer on your countrymen, no problems, but they’re not representing your country, they’re individual and I think we need to understand that.
“We should have more respect for the international players that come over here… we’ve got to also accept that if it goes too far, there’s a chance that these players will say, ‘I’m not going to come to Australia anymore. I go there and I get abused, what’s the point of that?”
Fan ejections from major clashes have become commonplace at Melbourne Park over the years, with a number of drunk supporters thrown out of Novak Djokovic matches at the 2023 tournament, and Rafael Nadal similarly heckled by an apparently intoxicated woman in 2021.
Most famously, Nick Kyrgios matches in recent tournaments have become well known for their relative rowdiness, with his and Thanasi Kokkinakis’ run to the Australian Open men’s doubles title in 2022 bringing with it a divided opinion on fan atmosphere at their games, which Kyrgios himself described as a ‘zoo’.
The 28-year old was scathing of Cash’s critique, saying the Aussie icon had ‘no idea’ and describing him as an ‘old head’.
“Absolutely stupid comment by another old head that has no idea how marketing or how things work in today’s day and age,” Kyrgios told the Daily Mail.
“You need entertainment. This generation doesn’t have a long attention span: that’s why you see clips on Instagram rolling – they’re 15-20 seconds long.
“Someone like Pat Cash wouldn’t be able to grasp that concept. And I’m not taking anything away from Pat Cash – incredible player of his generation, but we need to continue to make the sport grow for fans everywhere.”
Kyrgios said the incredibly high viewership for the 2022 Australian Open, which broke TV and attendance records as he and Kokkinakis claimed doubles glory while Ash Barty won the women’s singles title, as proof of the ‘entertainment value’ such fan interaction provided.
“We need the crowds to feel part of the sport. We need entertainment,” Kyrgios said.
“We need people having beers and the players loving it. We need human interaction. We’re human, not robots. We need it to be like that.
“That year  was incredible. Ash Barty was playing some of the best tennis in her career – she won the grand slam. Me and Thanasi won the grand slam. And it was the highest viewership. That’s not by coincidence.
“With everything I do on and off the court: entertainment value, putting eyes on this – it just makes everyone else more money in the sport. That’s all it does.
“And if Pat Cash can’t see that – stubborn, old, stuck in his ways.”
It’s far from the first time Kyrgios has hit back at criticism from Cash, with the always controversial star taking umbrage to the 58-year old accusing him of ‘cheating’, ‘manipulating’ and ‘abusing’ opponents and officials and generally taking tennis ‘to the lowest level I can see‘ during his run to the 2022 Wimbledon final.
“The greats of Australian tennis, they haven’t always been the nicest to me personally. They haven’t always been supportive,” Kyrgios said before the final, which he lost in four sets to Novak Djokovic.
“It’s weird: they just have like a sick obsession with tearing me down for some reason.”
Kyrgios will miss the 2024 Australian Open due to a wrist injury, but has been signed by foreign broadcasters ESPN and Eurosport in a commentary role.