PARIS – Australian firebrand Nick Kyrgios admitted that the death of his beloved grandfather made him fall out of love with tennis.
The 22-year-old, who tumbled out of the French Open on Thursday, losing 5-7 6-4 6-1 6-2 to big-serving Kevin Anderson of South Africa, was on the brink of tears when asked to recall memories of Christos Kyrgios, who passed away in April after a long battle with cancer.
The family tragedy forced Kyrgios to dash back home, cancelling the start of his claycourt season in Estoril before jetting back to Europe in the build-up to Roland Garros.
"After my grandpa's passing, I just lost a lot of motivation to do anything really," said Kyrgios, whose frustration boiled over as he slid to defeat, smashing a racquet on a courtside chair and picking up a penalty point for his troubles.
When he was asked to talk about his relationship with his grandfather, Kyrgios was on the verge of tears and called a swift halt to his press conference.
"It was tough back home. I can't talk about it, I can't," he said.
Meanwhile, Kyrgios brushed off his spectacular racquet demolition, insisting that was part of the whole package – like it or not.
"I don't know if that's the best role model you want," he said.
"But I'm not trying to show anybody my frustration. I just do it for myself. I've been doing it my whole career. It's just a habit now."
Anderson, meanwhile, said he was able to take advantage of Kyrgios's meltdown to record his second win in two meetings with the Australian, having also come back from a set down to win in Chengdu, China last year.
"I was in his head after winning that second set," admitted Anderson.
"He was struggling with his own battles, I didn't give him a way to get back in the match. So it's something that I knew I needed to do, and I thought I was able to execute that very well today."
Anderson, ranked at 56 in the world, made the most of the 18th-seeded Australian's 42 unforced errors to progress to the third round where he will face Britain's Kyle Edmund.
Anderson has gone as far as the fourth round in Paris in 2013 and 2014.
"I feel like each week I'm playing better and better tennis," said the South African.
"My body feels really strong and healthy, which is the biggest focus."