It's difficult to tell if Nick Kyrgios was being smug or merely naive when, less than 24 hours after he created an explosive and now widely reported controversy during a match with Stan Wawrinka at the ATP Canada Masters, he told the press:
"It's all cleared now. Obviously, I apologized in public and privately as well. I've been fined. So everything is sort of put to bed now. I thought we could move on from it."
All right, cut Kyrgios a break on that. Maybe he wasn't being condescending.
But, "put to bed?" ... "move on from it?"
Kyrgios, a sensational talent, may be halfway through his young career before he'll be able move on from the mistake he made by turning Donna Vekic, a young WTA pro, into collateral damage as he trash-talked Wawrinka. In the boys-will-be-boys process, he publicly humiliated and demeaned Vekic -- who is even younger than Kyrgios.
You can rail against political correctness all you want (and who hasn't?), but that kind of behavior just doesn't fly anymore, not even -- maybe not especially -- when the offender is a flamboyant, preening, market-ready young pro athlete.
Move on? It's more likely that the problems stemming from this incident for Kyrgios are just coalescing.
Up to now, Kyrgios has been seen largely as the second coming of Andre Agassi. He's lavishly talented, but also impudent, expressive, electric. Like Agassi, Kyrgios is a gifted rebel who has previously declared that he's not all that into tennis. And like Agassi in the puppy stage, even when his heart isn't into tennis, it's always into making sure he has a good hair day.
Now, many people are going to see Kyrgios through a very different lens.
True, Agassi in his youth occasionally passed remarks that many would find offensive today, sometimes deeply so. But Agassi was never anything quite as cruel to or about anyone quite as undeserving. And these are different, more polarized times.
You can bet that right now there are people wondering what Nike will do with the athlete it had hoped to promote as the next Andre Agassi. A Nike representative told ESPN.com barely 24-hours after the controversy erupted that the relevant folks at Nike had already "had a conversation" about the Kyrgios incident.
Then there's the ATP, which has served Kyrgios with a "notice of investigation," which is a lawyer-scary way of informing him that just because he was levied a $12,500 fine (that's walking around money to him) in Montreal, it doesn't mean the case is closed. There may be more fines, even a suspension, down the road.
Here's the thing with the ATP, and tennis in general: The sport has carved out a solid and morally defensible niche as a respectable game. It's a sport you'd like to see your kids play, maybe even as professionals. And in truth, tennis has been a remarkably scandal-free sport and has generally skirted a sense of entitlement and gauzy dreams of McMansions among its young athletes.
The people in tennis are going to do anything they can to protect that reputation, not just to preserve a market niche, but because they believe it's the right thing to do. The leaders, including the top players, will come down hard on anyone who threatens their ethos. The top players will support that and, in the Kyrgios case, the WTA will demand it.
The sad reality is that Kyrgios's behavior has been evolving from expressive to edgy and worse. As many commentators have noted, he needs some sound advice. He's being mentored now by Lleyton Hewitt, who is a marvelous on-court role model. But Hewitt has always disliked the public aspects of his job and he may even be a hindrance if it comes down to helping Kyrgios navigate the shark-infested waters of big media.
And big media is coming, if not next week in Cincinnati than in less than two weeks at the U.S. Open - coincidentally at a tournament held in a facility named for feminist icon Billie Jean King.
The distractions couldn't come at a worse time for Kyrgios. There's a chance this controversy will inspire him; there's a greater chance it will be a spectacular act of career sabotage. He's young, though, so he'll recover. And redemption -- sincere, staged, or most likely some combination of both -- is always a possibility.
It took a full day, but someone in his camp finally found the handle on the spin machine and began cranking. Within a 12-hour period on Friday, two different emailed apologies featuring personal salutations to the recipients.
The first was a reiterated public apology. The second was a specific apology to the families of the two players (Donna Vekic and Thanasi Kokkinakis) who were featured in the insult Kyrgios hurled at Wawrinka.
Kyrgios may be moving on, but it may not be in the way he imagined and where he's headed now as a public figure is unclear.