There were the usual fireworks but Nick Kyrgios has turned relative tennis cleanskin to headline a banner day for Australia at the US Open.
In his first outing since copping a record $US113,000 ($167,000) fine for his spectacular meltdown at Cincinnati, Kyrgios was mostly on his best behaviour during a typically lively 6-3 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 first-round win over American Steve Johnson on Tuesday night (Wednesday afternoon, AEST).
He was also in brilliant touch, crunching 24 aces, 20 clean winners – including a series of ferocious forehand slap shots that left spectators agog – and breaking Johnson four times in the two-hour, two-minute exhibition in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Kyrgios had too many guns for his 86th-ranked rival, setting up a second-round meeting with French wildcard Antoine Hoang, the world No.104, with minimum fuss by his lowly standards.
“You could not have picked a more boring sport as a profession”
— Eric Hubbs (@BarstoolHubbs) August 28, 2019
The enigmatic star received a code violation from British chair umpire James Keothavong for dropping a succession of F-bombs in the eighth game of the second set.
His antics didn’t impress Johnson, who fumed: “Stop f—ing around and let’s play tennis” as Kyrgios raged at Keothavong for sanctioning him instead of stopping fans from wandering through the stands during his serve.
But that – plus the usual moaning to his box for not offering enough encouragement and for his shorts apparently being too small and briefly complaining of boredom – was nothing compared to branding the umpire a “f—ing tool, a potato” and obliterating two racquets a fortnight ago in Cincinnati.
“Couldn’t have picked a more boring sport as a profession. No f—ing joke,” Kyrgios moaned after needing to mimic Roger Federer’s serve midway through the second set to seemingly keep himself entertained.
Fortunately for his supporters, Kyrgios was able to maintain focus long enough to avoid serious strife, although the ATP has said it is looking further into his match behaviour.
Kyrgios returned to his theme in his post-match media conference, accusing the ATP of corruption when asked about his fine for the Cincinnati meltdown – believed to be the biggest in tennis history.
“The ATP is pretty corrupt anyway. I’m not fussed about it at all,” he said in a development that will almost certainly force the governing body of men’s tennis to suspend the Australian, as it has already said it is considering.
“I was fined 113,000K for what? Why are we talking about something that happened three weeks ago when I just chopped up someone first round of a US Open?”
Kyrgios has already been banned once, in late 2016 after tanking in Shanghai, and ordered to undergo counselling.
On Tuesday, the 28th seed was among five Australians to join day-one winners Ashleigh Barty and Alex de Minaur in the second round.