At an inconspicuous sports hall, nestled amongst the historic buildings surrounding Sydney Harbour, Nick Kyrgios is beaming as he runs up and down a basketball court with his mates.
He’s made no secret of the fact that his first sporting love is basketball as opposed to tennis — a sport that made him a household name and one of Australia’s most contentious athletes.
His flashy style of tennis playing is reflected in his spectacular ability as a basketball player — and his everyday life.
He arrived to his interview with ABC’s 7.30 in a bright green Tesla.
One of the mates he shares the court with is Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Only a week or so earlier, the pair were on a court of the tennis variety, hoisting up the Australian Open doubles trophy after an extraordinary run through the tournament.
But the pair’s journey had begun years before when they met at a junior tournament in Canberra when they were eight years old.
“I saw a big chubby kid just nailing the ball,” Kokkinakis said.
“I had just come from Adelaide and won my regional event there.
“Saw the big man playing, saw his dad, decked out in Jordan gear, and I thought, ‘I’m probably going to be mates with this dude’.”
Nick Kyrgios said he felt a similar bond.
“Basically, since then, I’ve had a pretty I think brotherly relationship going through from under-10s all the way to basically professional now, which is pretty special,” Kyrgios said.
“Usually your paths go off to different, you know, regions, but we’ve pretty much stayed the same.
“To this day, we love hooping at KGV [King George V Recreation Centre] in Sydney to, you know, being on the main stage when you win a grand slam — it’s pretty crazy.”
‘You can’t please everyone’
The doubles pairing was as spectacular as it was controversial.
The on-court theatrics of the pair earned them a following seldom seen in the traditionally mild-mannered tennis crowds.
“I think I want to continue to grow the game.
“I don’t always agree with what the crowd does sometimes as well.”
Kokkinakis also rejects the criticism.
“I think you can’t please everyone and that’s the biggest thing we’ve learned,” he said.
“I think maybe tennis traditionalists or purists, maybe older fans, maybe wouldn’t agree with everything.
“But for us, you know, we’re not encouraging the crowd to chant some vulgar stuff.
One of the critics was fellow Australian tennis player Matthew Ebden, who described Kyrgios’ treatment of his doubles opponents as disrespectful.
“You look at some athletes around the world, Neymar, Russell Westbrook … they’re more than just an athlete,” Kyrgios said.
“I have my own foundation, I help kids.
“I’m a platform … I’m more than just a tennis player.”
Kyrgios is doing it his own way
Kyrgios speaks with unbridled self-assuredness.
Many interpret it as arrogance, unbecoming of a star athlete.
“I feel like I’ve definitely had a rough, you know, some up and downs with the Australian public,” he said.
“But to be honest, I look at myself in the mirror every day, and I know that I’m comfortable in my own skin.
“I don’t really care if I don’t win a grand slam one day or I don’t want to be like Roger Federer or something like that.
When asked about his histrionics at the court, he stridently defends himself.
“The media is always going to really nitpick,” he said.
“I think my behaviour in this Australian Open, I thought [it] was fine. I didn’t think I went overboard with swearing or being angry.
“I broke a racket in singles playing the number two player in the world.
His best mate Kokkinakis listens on with interest, and also chimes in to defend his mate.
“I think the most frustrating aspect for me was when people … just read the headline, they don’t actually click on the article and make an actual observation for themselves,” he said.
“[They are] quick to comment without really knowing exactly what’s going on.
“But there’s always going to be people like that, so you just sort of brush it off.”
As the interview comes to a close, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis are asked about how they would like to be remembered.
Inevitably, Kyrgios provides an unforgettable response.
“I want to be remembered as more than just someone who played [tennis],” he said.
“I want to be remembered as an icon — someone who just went out there and did it their own way.”
Watch this interview on 7.30 tonight on ABC TV and ABC iview