BBC told to ‘hang heads in shame’ after signing Nick Kyrgios for Wimbledon

Nick Kyrgios – BBC spices up Wimbledon coverage by landing Nick Kyrgios
Tennis fans enjoyed Nick Kyrgios' commentary at the Australian Open, where he interviewed Coco Gauff - Getty Images/Graham Denholm

The BBC’s plans to hire Nick Kyrgios as a Wimbledon pundit this summer have sparked outrage among senior MPs and women’s campaigners.

Caroline Nokes, the women and equalities committee chair, said the corporation should “hang its head in shame” for agreeing terms after he last year admitted assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Jamie Klingler, co-founder of Reclaim These Streets, also expressed dismay over the punditry job given that Kyrgios has also retweeted social media posts of misogynist Andrew Tate.

Kyrgios admitted assaulting an ex-girlfriend in February last year but a magistrate in Canberra, Australia, called the incident “a single act of stupidity or frustration” when sparing him a criminal record.

BBC executives appear to have overlooked the controversy, however, as he will join the Wimbledon team as a pundit unless he defies expectations and regains match fitness.

“The BBC should hang its head in shame at this appointment,” Ms Nokes, a senior Tory, told Telegraph Sport. “It’s a disgrace and shows the utter contempt our national broadcaster has towards women. Not content with consistently underpaying their own female staff and forcing out women once they hit a certain age, they now bring a man who admitted assaulting a woman on board for Wimbledon.”

Women’s Aid also expressed dismay at the BBC. Teresa Parker, head of media at the charity, told Telegraph Sport: “We are shocked to hear of the appointment of a Wimbledon pundit by the BBC who pleaded guilty to assaulting an ex-girlfriend last year.

“Nick Kyrgios has also been publicly called out for supporting the social media content of a well-known misogynist, who has himself been arrested on violence against women charges. We are concerned how this appointment sends out a worrying message about how seriously we as a society take violence against women.

“We know from the survivors we speak to that when perpetrators of domestic abuse are seen to continue in public life as normal, and especially given a public platform, it sends the message that domestic abuse isn’t taken seriously by society. There are many potential Wimbledon pundits out there – why choose to employ an abuser?”

Telegraph Sport understands BBC chiefs gave the green light to recruit Kyrgios after concluding the legal process was over and he had offered an explanation. Their view is he will offer audiences “unique insight and analysis” as a current player and grand slam finalist, as he has already done for others.

Ms Klingler added: “It’s amazing how quickly we are willing to dismiss violence against women as long as the man perpetrating that violence is good at hitting a ball or a musical note.”

Nick Kyrgios appears at the Magistrates Court in Canberra on crutches
Kyrgios appeared at the Magistrates Court in Canberra last year on crutches - Shutterstock/Mick Tsikas

The most controversial player of the past decade, Kyrgios has contested just one match in the past 18 months on account of various physical problems, notably his knee and wrist.

Despite a recent podcast appearance in which he said that he “will be back on court soon… there’s still fire in the belly”, Kyrgios would need an extended period of gym work and specific tennis training to be ready for the tour.

Still only 29, Kyrgios began his move into commentary during the ATP Finals in Turin at the end of last year, then worked for ESPN at January’s Australian Open. He has impressed many with his insight and fluency behind the microphone but he has divided opinion like few others throughout his playing career. He could be boorish, as when notoriously telling Stan Wawrinka that “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend”, or when hurling a chair onto the court during a temper tantrum.

Yet he was also capable of sublime tennis, particularly at Wimbledon, where he reached the final in 2022 before losing to Novak Djokovic in four sets.

Nick Kyrgios with Novak Djokovic holding up their plates after the 2022 Wimbledon final
Kyrgios' run to the 2022 Wimbledon final, in which he lost to Novak Djokovic, won him admirers for his grass-court game - Reuters/Toby Melville

The owner of the most loose-limbed and explosive service action in the game, Kyrgios’s best results have come on the grass, since the moment when he defeated Rafael Nadal on Centre Court in 2013. He was only 18 at the time.

That victory proved to have a downside, however. It made Kyrgios a celebrity in Australia and created a weight of expectation that he struggled to deal with. By 2019, his mental health had reached such a low point that he contemplated suicide. “I was drinking, abusing drugs, I hated the kind of person I was,” Kyrgios told the Netflix documentary series Break Point.

He released a statement after being spared of an assault conviction last year saying he was grateful to the court for dismissing the charges.

“I was not in good place when this happened and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret,” he said. “I know it wasn’t OK and I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.”

He had shoved Chiara Passari onto the pavement during a row in Canberra in 2021, the court heard.

Previously, the BBC replaced John Inverdale as the host of the Wimbledon highlights show with the move coming two years after he was accused of making sexist comments about women’s champion Marion Bartoli.

The BBC later apologised for the “insensitive” comments and Inverdale was kept on as a commentator until he left last year.

Kyrgios was not the only Australian to be revealed on Wednesday by the BBC. The 2021 Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty has also been added to their commentary team for this summer.