SYDNEY • Rising tennis star Nick Kyrgios has been stunned by the ferocity of criticism levelled at him over his behaviour at Wimbledon and has called on his fellow Australians to show him respect even if they cannot love him.
The 20-year-old said he had contemplated walking away from the game - which he admits he does not "love" - after being hammered in the media, both traditional and social, in the wake of his fourth-round loss to Richard Gasquet at the All England Club.
Olympic swimming great Dawn Fraser apologised on Tuesday for saying Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic should "go back to where their parents came from" if they did not behave properly on court but that has not stemmed the flood of vitriol.
"It's been tough for me waking up every day with negative messages," Kyrgios told Fairfax media. "People don't really know what goes on in my life. I have read a lot of what has been said about me.
"I've read a whole lot. Comments like 'he shouldn't be representing Australia', 'he's a disgrace'.
"It's tough to read. I'm human.
"I don't really want them to love me. I don't want their love but everyone deserves respect."
Kyrgios and 22-year-old Tomic, ranked 29th and 26th in the world respectively, are Australia's best hopes of ending a 13-year men's singles grand slam title drought which goes back to Lleyton Hewitt's 2002 Wimbledon triumph.
Quarter-final appearances at Wimbledon last year and Melbourne Park in January saw Kyrgios assume the greater weight of expectation but the focus after Monday's exit was on the manner of his departure from the All England Club.
While showing off his brilliant shot-making, Kyrgios was fined for an audible obscenity, indulged in a running debate with the umpire and had to defend himself afterwards against accusations of "tanking", or giving up.
He has long said that he would not try to stifle his on-court emotions as he thinks it makes him a better player but admitted the criticism was having an impact.
In addition to the criticism of his behaviour, Kyrgios has also been distracted by the illness of his grandfather, who has cancer, and the public spat between Tomic and Tennis Australia, which led to his friend being dropped from the Davis Cup team.
"At times, I feel lost. I'm questioning what I should do out there and that's a bad thing. I'm a guy that's always played on instinct on the tennis court. That's how I should be," he added.