The Columbus Dispatch

Kyrgios speaks out about mental health

- Howard Fendrich

Tennis pro Nick Kyrgios says he had “suicidal thoughts” and dealt with depression and abuse of drugs and alcohol in the past, the latest in a series of high-profile athletes to speak publicly and frankly about their mental health.

The 26-year-old Australian, who has been ranked as high as No. 13 in singles and recently won the Australian Open men’s doubles title, wrote in a message posted Thursday on his verified Instagram account that he now is “proud to say I’ve completely turned myself around and have a completely different outlook on everything.”

Kyrgios included a photograph of himself sitting at a tennis court that he said was taken three years ago at the Australian Open.

He called that time “one of my darkest periods” and pointed out that his right arm in that photo displays what he called evidence of “self harm.”

“I was having suicidal thoughts and was literally struggling to get out of bed, let alone play in front of millions. I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family & friends,” Kyrgios wrote. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios, currently ranked 137th, is one of the most entertaini­ng, enigmatic and polarizing athletes in his sport, simultaneo­usly supremely talented and unconventi­onal on the court and someone who never has been shy about expressing his opinions off it.

This was his most self-revelatory discussion of his mindset, struggles and new perspectiv­e.

And he offered to try to help others. “I know that day to day life can seem extremely exhausting, impossible at times. I understand that you feel if you open up it may make you feel weak, or scared. I’m telling you right now, it’s OK, you are not alone. I’ve been through those times when it seemed as if those positive energetic vibes were never ever going to be reality,” Kyrgios wrote. “Please, don’t feel as if you are alone, if you feel as if you can’t talk to anyone, I’m here, reach out.”

He closed with: “This life is beautiful.”

At Melbourne Park in January, Kyrgios and longtime friend Thanasi Kokkinakis became the first pair of Australian­s to win the men’s doubles title at the Australian Open since 1997.

This was just the fourth appearance as a pair in the main draw of a major tournament for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis.

In singles at the Australian Open, Kyrgios lost in the second round to eventual runner-up Daniil Medvedev.

Kyrgios is known for both booming serves and attempting to catch opponents by surprise with underarm serves. He’s as likely to try a between-the-legs shot as he is to smack a 100 mph forehand. He relishes playing to, and interactin­g with, a crowd, even chatting with spectators between points to ask where he should hit the ball. He also has been accused of not always giving his best effort.

When he’s on top of his game, Kyrgios can beat anyone. He is one of only two players, along with Lleyton Hewitt, to win each of his initial matchups against Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

His 2014 debut at Wimbledon – as a teenager who was ranked 144th – included a victory against Nadal on the way to the quarterfin­als. Kyrgios also made it to the quarterfin­als at the 2015 Australian Open, but hasn’t been past the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament since.

Kyrgios has run into trouble for his words and actions.

In 2019, he was placed on a six-month probation by the ATP Tour after being fined $113,000 for eight infraction­s at the Western & Southern Open in Ohio, including insulting a chair umpire and leaving the court to smash a pair of rackets.

Earlier that season, he was defaulted from a match at the Italian Open after throwing a chair. In 2016, he was suspended by the ATP for not trying to win and for insulting fans during the Shanghai Masters.

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