Just days after winning his third career title at the Japan Open, world No.14 Nick Kyrgios has been booed off court after he spectacularly imploded in a 48-minute loss at the Shanghai Masters.
Kyrgios was trounced 6-3 6-1 by German qualifier Mischa Zverev in their second-round match, appearing at times to be disinterested and even being accused of unprofessional behaviour by chair umpire Ali Nilli.
It is not the first time the 21-year-old Australian has been levelled with tanking accusations during a tennis match – but even judged against his notorious reputation, Wednesday night’s (AEDT) meltdown was remarkable.
During his clash with Zverev, ranked 110 in the world, Kyrgios at one point asked the chair umpire “can you call time so I can finish this match and go home?”, according to numerous reports on Twitter.
During the fifth game of the match, he softly served the ball over to his opponent and walked off the court as it was returned, whereby Nilli told him: “You can’t play like that, OK? That’s not professional … this is a professional tournament, we have to act professional and play with your best effort the whole time.”
He also received a code violation for swearing at a spectator in the crowd.
Kyrgios later took to Twitter to apologise for his behaviour.
Not good enough today on many levels, I'm better than that. I can go on about excuses but there are none. Sorry #StillAWorkInProgress 🙏🏽😢😞
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) October 12, 2016
Watch the incidents below:
— Aliny Calejon (@alcalejon) October 12, 2016
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) October 12, 2016
Ironically, Kyrgios’ performance in China comes after a series of articles asking whether the temperamental Aussie had finally turned a corner in his career after winning the Japan Open.
The title saw his ranking rise to 14th – a career-high.
We've refunded bets on Nick Kyrgios after tonight's 'effort' in the #ATPShangai Masters! 😦🎾
*T&Cs apply pic.twitter.com/BleaO3GfjS
— Sportsbet.com.au (@sportsbetcomau) October 12, 2016
“It depends how much I want it and how much I work for it,” he said after his Tokyo triumph, his third tournament win of 2016.
“I did a lot of work last week and it showed, so hopefully I keep going down the right direction.”
Kyrgios revealed he had recently hired a strength and conditioning coach, but was still without a main coach.
“To be honest, I wasn’t really doing anything really physical in the gym for the last year-and-a-half, so I’m just getting in the gym more and doing all the basic stuff, trying to build my strength up,” he said.
“When (the coach) first met me he couldn’t really believe where I was physically and what I was doing at this level.”
Kyrgios had previously been accused of tanking in a fourth-round Wimbledon loss to Richard Gasquet.
He was booed by the crowd but insisted afterwards that he was trying.
Despite not having a coach, Australia’s Davis Cup captain and tennis great Lleyton Hewitt had been mentoring Kyrgios recently.
On Monday, Hewitt said Kyrgios could challenge for the 2017 Australian Open in January.
“At the moment he’s showing that he’s good enough to make the quarter-finals at the grand slams, but he’s got to take that next step now and really push to towards the semis and then the finals,” Hewitt told reporters.
His best finish in grand slams was quarter-final appearances at the 2015 Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2014.