MELBOURNE (AFP) - Newly-minted star Tennys Sandgren lashed out at the "dehumanising" media on Wednesday (Jan 24) after wiping his Twitter account following a backlash over his political views and links to right-wing activists.
The unheralded American, a devout Christian, came from nowhere to make the Australian Open quarter-finals, where he crashed out to South Korea's Chung Hyeon in three sets.
His deep run at the tournament sparked a heightened scrutiny of his life, including his political stance and his seeming support of the alt-right movement in the United States.
Among his tweets was one where Sandgren appeared to back a debunked online conspiracy in 2016 which linked Hillary Clinton to a supposed child sex abuse ring at a Washington pizzeria.
He also retweeted a video from white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes.
After facing an online backlash, he decided to wipe the slate clean, deleting years of his social media postings.
After his match with Chung, he read a prepared, sermon-like, statement at his post-match press conference that left a stunned silence.
"You would rather perpetuate propaganda machines instead of researching information from a host of angles and perspectives while being willing to learn, change, and grow," he said.
"You dehumanise with pen and paper and turn neighbour against neighbour.
"In so doing, you may actually find you're hastening the hell you wish to avoid, the hell we all wish to avoid." He added that he treated everyone as equals and accused the media of "stripping away any individuality for the sake of demonising by way of the collective".
"It's my job to continue on this journey with the goal of becoming the best I can and to embody the love Christ has for me, for I answer to Him and Him alone," he added.
Sandgren, from Gallatin in Tennessee, refused to take any questions on the subject but in an interview with broadcaster ESPN said that "some things are being said about me that are untrue and not particularly fair".
In a bid to douse the fire, he deleted all his tweets.
"It's not something I'm really embarrassed about, but I just felt like creating a cleaner start is not a bad call. I thought it wouldn't be a bad way to move forward," he said.
Sandgren had earlier denied that he supported far-right figures and said who he followed on Twitter "doesn't matter".
"I don't. I don't (support them). I find some of the content interesting," he said of the controversial figures.
"But no, I don't, not at all. As a firm Christian, I don't support things like that, no. I support Christ and following him."
Sandgren is only the second man in the last 20 years to make the Australian Open quarter-finals on his debut.
Amazingly, the 26-year-old missed out on qualifying in the last four years to reach the main draw in Melbourne.
Despite falling to Chung, he conquered former winner Stan Wawrinka and fifth seed Dominic Thiem along the way to announcing himself as a player to watch.
In the wake of the controversy and his tennis exploits, he said he planned to go home and "turn off my phone".
"This has been a lot of information to digest in the last few weeks. So I need to take ample time to do so, so I can move forward correctly," he said.