MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's Davis Cup captain Wally Masur has described Nick Kyrgios's extraordinary sledge of two-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka as part of a "journey" and a "learning curve" for a young player who needs support more than punishment.
Kyrgios was fined $10,000 and sparked a global uproar after telling Wawrinka that Australian tour rival Thanasi Kokkinakis had "banged" the Swiss's girlfriend during their match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
Wawrinka has been romantically linked with 19-year-old Croatian player Donna Vekic, who played mixed doubles with Kokkinakis at the Australian Open last year.
A furious Wawrinka demanded the ATP take action against Kyrgios, who later issued a public apology but faces the threat of suspension from the tour.
Pundits and top players, including world number one Novak Djokovic, have queued up to criticize Kyrgios but the response from Australia's tennis establishment has been far more sanguine.
Tennis Australia issued a statement saying that Kyrgios and his team needed "support", while Masur played down the sledge as "not confrontational" and said he was still in Australia's Davis Cup plans for their semi-final against Britain next month.
"How punitive can you be? At what point do you start to move forward?" Masur told local broadcaster Fox Sports.
"Nick is paying a very heavy price financially, obviously the consequences will go beyond this week, for example amongst his peers on the tour, the ATP player council, they'll have their say."
Kyrgios, who has made over $700,000 in prize money alone this year, was also fined $2,500 by the ATP for a comment made to a ball-kid during his match against Wawrinka.
The $12,500 total for the fines is a fraction of the $44,600 he earnt from reaching the tournament's third round.
"We're looking at a young kid, he's got enormous potential, he's a good kid at heart," Masur added. "We're trying to put things in place behind the scenes that can make a difference and help Nick achieve that potential.
"Nick polarizes opinion but there's been a lot of young prodigies come onto tour that have been exactly the same.
"Look at John McEnroe, he was the superbrat ended up becoming one of the most loved players in the game.
"Nick is on a journey... this is all part of a learning curve."
Kyrgios was jeered onto the court and during his third-round loss to American John Isner by spectators at the Montreal tournament on Thursday.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)