Australia’s Nick Kyrgios is no stranger to controversy. Indeed, the 24-year-old has as long and varied a rap sheet as anyone in the men’s game. He’s insulted the partners of his colleagues on tour, been fined and provisionally suspended for failing to give proper effort before going on air to call two of the greatest players of all time ‘salty’ and ‘fake’. Upon occasion, in between these brushes with controversy, Kyrgios even finds the time to play some pretty good tennis.
At the Washington Open, he began his campaign with an assured 7-5 6-4 win over the tenacious American Thai-Son Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski pushed Kyrgios throughout their contest, but when it mattered most the world #52 was able to summon power and accuracy that Kwiatkowski simply could not match. His victory, his first in Washington, earned him a second-round clash with the Frenchman Gilles Simon, once ranked as high as sixth in the world and still seeded 11th in D.C.
But Simon, for all his enduring quality, is not the player he once was and Kyrgios surely went into the match feeling he had more than a chance of emerging victorious. So it proved as, in large part thanks to some excellent serving, Kyrgios ousted Simon 6-4 7-6 to reach the third round at the Washington Open for the first time in his career. But Kyrgios being Kyrgios, it was unsurprisingly not as straightforward as the scoreline suggests.
Instead, the Australian picked up a point penalty for racquet abuse and engaged in a heated discussion with the umpire Fergus Murphy over a line judge’s call, before refusing to shake Murphy’s hand at the conclusion of the match. That was a breach of etiquette that if not unheard of in the professional game is certainly unusual. Kyrgios’ detractors will point to it as further evidence of the malign influence he has on the sport, his supporters the reverse.
In true @NickKyrgios fashion, the Aussie won his match while in the midst of an argument with the chair umpire. ?
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) August 1, 2019
Both sides arguably have a point. Men’s tennis may currently have great champions, but it is, at times, rather short of intrigue. Kyrgios, for all his faults, unquestionably provides that, whether due to the threat he poses to the sport’s elite or because of his on-court theatrics. Equally, however, it is arguable that one of the biggest attractions of tennis is the sporting spirit with which the majority of its players conduct themselves, a high standard Kyrgios has fallen short of more than once.
This latest, albeit minor, indiscretion will doubtless see the debate about Kyrgios start up once again. But, one rather suspects, that will suit the Australian just fine. Because, more than anything else, what Kyrgios seeks is attention.
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