Clash over Kyrgios as Tomic pulls out of Rio

SYDNEY • Tennis Australia (TA) and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) appear to be headed for a showdown over Nick Kyrgios after the 21-year-old was publicly backed by his sport's governing body yesterday.

The player was targeted again by the Australian team's chef de mission Kitty Chiller earlier yesterday, as a player who needed to improve his behaviour or he would not be selected for the Rio Games even if he was nominated by TA.

But TA president Steve Healy hit back, insisting that the player's behaviour had improved. "It's unfortunate that he's been included unfairly in recent discussions on player behaviour that have not involved him," Healy added.

The world No. 20 was drawn back into the limelight after compatriot Bernard Tomic said he would not be available for the Rio Games in August due to an "extremely busy" playing schedule.

Last week, Chiller had warned both Australian tennis stars in response to behavioural issues concerning them on and off the court.

Tomic's selection was under a cloud after he deliberately gave up a match point at a tournament in Madrid, saying he did not care because he is 23 and worth US$10 million (S$13.7 million). Chiller described his behaviour as "appalling" and remained unperturbed by his withdrawal yesterday.

The former Olympic modern pentathlete added that Kyrgios was still treading a fine line as to whether he would be selected.

Earlier this week, the 21-year-old Kyrgios had dismissed her warning, saying: "If you don't want two of the best players in Australia to represent your country, so be it."

"I think his comments show maybe he doesn't really know what it means to be an Australian Olympian," Chiller said of Kyrgios' statement. "If someone doesn't see the value in that, then that's their loss."

Asked if there were no Rio guarantees for Kyrgios, she said: "My stance hasn't changed. Nick has just come off a suspended sentence from the International Tennis Federation. Any athlete that has just had disciplinary action by an international federation clearly is on watch."

Tomic said yesterday that he based his decision to withdraw on what was best for his career.

"It's his choice. We only want people in our team who want to be there and (are) prepared to abide by what that team means," Chiller said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Clash over Kyrgios as Tomic pulls out of Rio'. Print Edition | Subscribe