By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Nick Kyrgios's astonishing slur against Stan Wawrinka has been widely condemned in Australia, but Davis Cup captain Wally Masur's defense of the wayward talent is likely to draw almost as much heat.
Masur told local broadcaster Fox Sports that Kyrgios's comment to the Swiss -- "Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend" -- had been blown out of proportion.
"When I actually saw the incident, what was fairly obvious is that Nick had his back turned to Stan, he was 90 feet away, and he mumbled it under his breath, I mean no way was he actually being confrontational," he said on Friday.
"It's just a case of the court-side microphone, which is pretty amazing what it picked up, picked up the audio.
"It wasn't the scenario I had in my mind when I read the headlines."
Masur appears to have seen a different video as Kyrgios can be seen in footage approaching the Swiss's side of the court to deliver the verbal barb before walking away with a smirk on his face.
Regardless, Masur's attempt to hose down the controversy has flown in the face of criticism raining down on the troubled 20-year-old, who has been fined by the ATP and could yet face a suspension from the tour.
Kyrgios's sledge, his initial attempt to downplay it and issue of a belated apology only after his ATP sanction will reinforce the view that Australia has become a breeding ground for tennis brats, albeit highly talented ones.
The nation's number one Bernard Tomic has long dragged Australian tennis through the mud, sticking tight to a father and coach who was convicted of assaulting a training partner and banned from the tour.
Like father, like son, was the rueful sigh of many local fans when Tomic was arrested and charged by Miami police last month for refusing to cooperate with hotel security during a noisy party in his penthouse suite.
After Tomic's jaw-dropping tirade against Tennis Australia (TA) at Wimbledon, complete with character assassinations of the governing body's top managers, he was kicked out of the Davis Cup team for a second time in his career.
However, only days after his Miami arrest, TA improbably held out an olive branch to the 22-year-old, perhaps mindful of the tough semi-final to be played against Britain in September.
Tomic duly scorned the offer of peace talks and remains estranged from the establishment.
TA's high performance director Pat Rafter, a paragon of good sportsmanship during his own successful playing career, has talked tough about a culture of 'entitlement' and only rewarding players with the right attitude.
But in tandem with apologist Masur, Rafter has been reduced to one half of a "good cop bad cop" routine that has failed to rein the young talents in.
Kyrgios slammed Rafter on Twitter for demanding higher standards, then went to Darwin to play the Davis Cup tie against Kazakhstan where he lost a singles rubber and yelled out "I don't want to be here" mid-match.
With Kyrgios not in a "good head-space" according to his mother, Lleyton Hewitt joined Kyrgios in Montreal to be his mentor in the leadup to the U.S. Open, the irony of the appointment apparently lost.
Two-time grand slam champion Hewitt was also notably petulant early in his career, alienating fans and media with his on-court histrionics.
After the ATP's fine and a chorus of denunciations from pundits and top players, including from world number one Novak Djokovic, TA's media unit finally creaked into gear to issue a response, nearly 24 hours after Kyrgios's comment went viral.
The ATP sanction was "appropriate", TA said, declining to offer its own form of punishment.
"Tennis Australia is working closely with Nick and his team to provide the best possible support; we understand how important it is to help educate and influence him both on and off the court."
(Editing by ....)