Nick Kyrgios
Kyrgios' behaviour is under the microscope already after he hurled abuse at Stanislas Wawrinka Getty

One of the defining features of the professional sport of tennis is the characters which regularly emanate from within it. John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Billy Jean King and Li Na among others have defined the modern era of the game with their charming, accessible and distinctive personalities.

In spite of the rigorous world-spanning schedules which now engulf the ATP and WTA tours, the players' identities are a far cry from their stone-faced counterparts elsewhere in global sport.

But the moment a performer's on-court persona begins to encroach on their game, becoming the primary narrative before, during and after matches, we should begin to question whether their guise is really all that important.

The Australian top-30 player Nick Kyrgios is threatened to fulfil such an ugly crime. Though the 20-year-old has claimed career-altering wins over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Krygios' charge sheet is starting to outdo and overshadow his on-court heroics.

Krygios' latest rash act, the undignified taunting of Stanislas Wawrinka during the Montreal Masters, might not supersede his tanking, not least abuse of the chair umpire, during his Wimbledon defeat to Richard Gasquet, but it shows a disgusting side of the Aussie which does not befit his undoubted talent.

A dire situation in a match unhinges the psyche of many players, and though it may be inexcusable and dangerous to be seen to surrender [particularly in an era of spot-fixing in sport] many players have been guilty of a form of 'tanking', even if it is not often comparable to the actions of Krygios at SW19.

Erratic behaviour

However, it takes a certain type of individual to engage in insulting verbal jousting with an opponent particularly when the jibes become personal. Krygios crossed a line when he eluded to the relationship his Davis Cup teammate Thanasi Kokkinakis had with Wawrinka's current girlfriend Donna Vekic, the Croatian right-hander.

Having constantly overlooked Kyrgios' outbursts and antics, the ATP has a responsibility to the game and to Krygios to take a strong stance against his actions. An obligatory £8,000 [$10,000] fine is not merely enough to ensure his increasingly erratic behaviour is curbed. The governing body could move to eject him from the Montreal tournament where he is into the third round after beating Wawrinka, or ban him from upcoming events such as the US Open which starts in New York on 31 August. Time to make a statement.

Lleyton Hewitt
Krygios has appointed Lleyton Hewitt as an advisor Getty

Such are these rare exchanges, the demand for the ATP to take a strong stance on the trading of baseline insults is not the pertinent issue here; rather the salvaging of Krygios' career which is flirting dangerously with the gutter. Setting a precedent might risk accusations of the ATP making a public example of Krygios, but it could signal a dramatic shift in behaviour and keep one of the enigmatic figures of the modern game on the straight and narrow.

Fellow countryman Bernard Tomic's struggling career, with only one grand slam last eight appearance in 23 starts, amid off-the-court distractions and incidents should be enough motivation for Krygios to want to turnaround his career.

Somewhat ironically, Krygios' latest outburst has coincided with among his smartest off-court decisions with the appointment of Lleyton Hewitt as an advisor until the end of the year. The former world number-one is planning a career in coaching and on taking on the Davis Cup captaincy; Krygios would do well to appoint the 34-year-old who he would "run through a brick wall for" as his new coach. Either way, results from the pair's relationship must start to become evident.

Hewitt is the ideal model for Krygios to follow; formerly a player who would take frustrations out on those around him, the two-time major winner is now among the most respected players in the game. Under his wing, Krygios has the best sounding board around to assist in controlling his personality but he and the authorities must act fast if they're to salvage anything resembling the player he has the capacity to be.