Nick Kyrgios has accused Olympic great Dawn Fraser of being a “blatant racist” after the former champion swimmer said tennis players should “go back to where their parents came from” if they did not set a better example to Australian youth.
Kyrgios was the subject of a barrage of criticism back home for his on-court antics when he was beaten by Richard Gasquet at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old was accused of giving up, or “tanking”, in one game, received a warning for an audible obscenity and conducted a running debate with the umpire throughout the match.
Fraser, who has been one of Australia’s best known sporting figures since she won the 100 metres freestyle at three successive Olympic Games from 1956, was invited to comment on his behaviour on a popular morning TV show.
“It’s absolutely disgusting. I am so shocked to think that he went out there to play and he tanked, he did all that tanking, that’s terrible,” the 77-year-old said.
“They should be setting a better example for the younger generation of this country, a great country of ours.
“If they don’t like it, go back to where their fathers or their parents came from. We don’t need them here in this country if they act like that.”
Kyrgios responded by linking to a video of Fraser’s comment on his Facebook page.
“Throwing a racket, brat. Debating the rules, disrespectful. Frustrated when competing, spoilt. Showing emotion, arrogant.”
“Blatant racist, Australian legend.”
Attempts by Reuters to contact Fraser by telephone and email on Tuesday were not immediately successful but she later denied being a racist.
“I’m not a racist person, if you take it that way then I’m sorry that you take it that way, but I’m not racist at all,” she told the Canberra Times.
“I said, ‘If they don’t want to be Australians then maybe they should go back to the country where their parents come from’. That’s not being racist.
“I said they were not good Australians by behaving the way they are on court. Do you think they are? He’s just bad mannered. He’s just a bad sport.”
Kyrgios’s Wimbledon exit came a couple of days after Bernard Tomic was dumped from Australia’s Davis Cup team for launching a tirade at Tennis Australia officials in the wake of his third round exit at the All England Club.
Kyrgios, who was born and raised in Australia’s capital Canberra, has Greek and Malaysian-born parents.
Tomic was born in Germany but moved to Queensland when he was three with his Yugoslavia-born parents.
At the time of the last census in 2011, 43.1 percent of Australians had one or more parent born outside the country.
Ironically, Fraser was something of an anti-authoritarian figure in her heyday.
A 10-year ban for various misdemeanours during the 1964 Tokyo Games, including taking a flag from outside the Japanese emperor’s palace, scuppered her hopes of winning a fourth straight Olympic title in Mexico in 1968.