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Tennis Champ Nick Kyrgios Opens Up About Dealing with Self-Harm and Suicidal Thoughts: 'No One Knew'

The 2022 Australian Open doubles champ has an off-the-court personality that differs from his "bad boy" reputation, he said

Graham Denholm/Getty
Graham Denholm/Getty

Nick Kyrgios is looking back on one of the “darkest” times of his life — and says his brash on-the-court behavior is not really who he is as a person.

The 2022 Australian Open doubles champ shared in an interview with Jay Shetty on his On Purpose podcast that in 2019, he contemplated taking his own life.

“I was drinking every night,” Kyrgios, 28, said. “You know, just at the time I thought it was just fun, but it wasn't fun. It was just self-inflicted pain. And I had friends around me telling me it wasn't healthy, and I ignored them.”

He continued, “And I was playing [Rafael] Nadal the next day. It's like, I looked at myself. I was like, I can't do this. I have to somehow change these habits. So I had self-harm everywhere. I had to wear an arm sleeve on the center court of Wimbledon and no one knew any of these problems. And it was, it was hard. And I look back and I just don't know how I got out of it to be honest, I was such a mess.”

Related: Nick Kyrgios Outsmarts Carjacker Who Threatened His Mother and Tried to Steal His Green Tesla

Kyrgios pointed to the media for the seeming disconnect in which he found on-the-court success but struggled behind the scenes.

"And the worst thing was the media, I was having decent results during that time. And the media was like, ‘Okay, is this a new Nick Kyrgios?’ And I was like, this is the darkest period of my life. There was a tournament in Mexico, Acapulco, where I was thinking about, I was having suicidal thoughts and, you know, I was just on the balcony of my hotel and I was genuinely thinking about it.”

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The Australian tennis star said that remembering that he has fans in his corner helped him to overcome the mental health setbacks.

Part of Kyrgios' struggles have been related to reconciling the "caring" and "generous" person his family knows with the competitive persona he maintains as a player, he said.

“Well, I guess, yeah, when I'm on court, I turn into a different person,” he said. “Like I love competing and it's like, I hate losing.”

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He continued, “I would cry on court. I would scream. I would just, I'd love to compete and hate to lose. And I guess I never changed. Like whether it's me now, I don't cry on court now, but I still am very emotional. It just shows how much I care. I feel like it was a way for me to outlet the pressure, you know, get angry or smash a racket.”

But the last year has not been an easy one for Kyrgios. After winning the Australian Open in 2022 and making it to the quarterfinals at the US Open, he was forced to withdraw from the 2023 Australian Open one day before the start due to a knee injury. He underwent surgery in January 2023, and spent the entire year unable to play.

Kyrgios announced over the weekend that the lingering injury would keep him from playing in the Australian Open next month.

But the tennis star is aiming to keep his own obstacles in perspective, he told Shetty.

“For instance, there was a Make-A-Wish kid that I met up with a week and a half ago, he's probably got six months to live, and then I realized that those types of people that look up to me and really want me to succeed, that's who I started playing for ... Like kids, the future generation.”

He added, “That's the reason why I probably would have retired and probably stopped playing a couple of years ago if I just kept playing on how I was feeling. But then I realized I've got a whole contingent of fans on why they want to see me succeed. So that's why I love playing now. Like I play for them, but that's what got me out of it.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.

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