Tennis

Wimbledon | Kyrgios’s tactics questioned as he beats Tsitsipas

Where do you start? Both players could and perhaps should have been defaulted? Perhaps umpire Damien Dumusois should have worn ear-muffs at the changeovers? Perhaps it could be argued it brought the game into disrepute? But it was compelling entertaining theatre from start to finish.

I wish we could all come together to put a rule in place on talking… every point I played it felt like there was something going on on the other side of the net. He cannot play another way. It’s his way of manipulating the opponent. Stefanos Tsitsipas

The combatants fought like their lives depended on it and the noisy, arguably raucous 10,000 present were seriously into it. It was billed as a blockbuster but was more like a high-drama pantomime.

At the end of it, the unseeded victor Nick Kyrgios, with a reputation for controversy, claimed the vanquished, Stefanos Tsitsipas still loved him, although it seemed that affection was not returned.

Tsitsipas apologised for an action which led to a code violation, but claimed it was provoked when “the circus on the other side of the net becomes tiring” before calling for a rule to be put in place to prevent “his way of manipulating the opponent”.

The Greek fourth seed added: “It’s constant bullying, He was probably a bully at school. I don’t like bullies. He has a very evil side to him.”

Kyrgios, 27, completed a 6-7 6-4 6-3 7-6 win and now bids to reach the Wimbledon quarter finals for the first time since he was a teenager where he faces American Brandon Nakashima.

Kyrgios said: “Honestly, it was a hell of an atmosphere, an amazing match. I felt like the favourite coming in, I beat him a couple of weeks ago.

“He’s a hell of a player, he knows how to beat me, he’s beaten me once. I’m so happy to be through. He was getting frustrated at times, and it is a frustrating sport.

“I have ultimate respect for him, whatever happens on the court I love him and I’m close with his brother. It’s amazing, everywhere I go I seem to have full stadiums. The media loves to say I’m bad for the sport but clearly, I’m not.”

On facing Nakashima, he added: “I’m going to rest, recover and do everything right and hopefully I can keep going.”

It was hard to tell who was the villain. The No.1 Court crowd clearly took to Kyrgios. And Tsitsipas did not help his cause by committing two offences which brought him a code violation as he appeared to lose his cool. And later even aimed two drives straight at Kyrgios’ body, maybe as an example of that.

He had pledged to ignore the Australian known for verbal antics which have upset officialdom on a regular basis.

But that break in the Greek’s composure reflected constant verbal outbursts which earned Kygios a warning for a verbal obscenity after comments to officials which included the word “f***ing” at 6-5 to his opponent in the opening set.

And he berated officials after losing the eventual tie-break in that set. He appeared to have more than a few words with the umpire at every changeover.

Kyrgios called the umpire “a disgrace”. A supervisor entered the scene and an unsatisified Kyrgios declared: “You guys do not know what you are talking about.”

And, incensed, he entered into a long diatribe after Tsitsipas had levelled the match at one-set all.

It followed the fourth seed earning his violation by firing a ball into the crowd and just missing the head of a spectator. Kyrgios called for his opponent to be defaulted and declared “I’m not playing until we get to the bottom of this.”

Kyrgios continued his verbal assault on the officials by telling the umpire at the start of the third set “don’t tell me how to play”.

And after the Australian had broken Tsitsipas a game or two later it all kicked off again. Kyrgios employed an underarm serve – which Britain’s former world No.1 Andy Murray was criticised for using earlier in the tournament – to seal a 4-1 lead in the set. And Tsitsipas reacted by hitting the ball out of court, striking the scoreboard to earn a second code violation.

On discovering his punishment, Tsitsipas pointed out to the umpire that “we’re here to play tennis”, no doubt in response to the unseeded Kyrgios’ non-tennis-playing activities during the encounter. On his next serve, Tsitsipas hit a return seemingly straight at Kyrgios on game point and the ball sailed long before he held. And committed a similar action as Kyrgios held for 5-2 before going 2-1 up in sets.

Nick Kyrgios takes a fall

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The drama continued in the fourth as Kyrgios fell face down on the grass clutching his hip as Tsitsipas fought back from three break points down to hold in the opening game.

But finally the tennis became more the centre of attention as both sides of the net fought for supremacy while not falling foul of the rules.

Kyrgios entertained with his risk-taking style, refusing to play the percentages, while his Greek opponent displayed his powerful and accurate hitting, movement and placement.

The match adjourned at 4-4 in the fourth due to failing light. Nothing could separate the flawed gladiators and the set went to a tie break.

Kyrgios earned a mini-break for a 5-4 lead. But his opponent immediately broke back. It was nip and tuck until Kyrgios earned his first match point at 8-7.

And he took it.

Tsitsipas said: “I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the way I fought. I’m disappointed with some of the things that went down, especially when it is repetitive. It becomes difficult to ignore.

“I like what his tennis has to bring. It’s different, that’s a good thing. There becomes a point where you get tired of it. The constant talking, the constant complaining. We are there to play tennis. The referee is not going to change his decision. It is frustrating to see that people get away with that.”

On belting the ball into the crowd, he added: “It was bad from my side. I apologised. I do not know what went through my head. I think the circus on the other side of the net becomes tiring. I didn’t hit any people. It hit the wall, thank God, but I will not be doing that again. But there was something that created that behaviour.

“I wish we could all come together to put a rule in place on talking… every point I played it felt like there was something going on on the other side of the net. He cannot play another way. It’s his way of manipulating the opponent. It triggers it so fast. I really hope all us players can make this a cleaner version of our sport. Have this behaviour not allowed and move on better.”

It was felt by commentators that Kyrgios’ histrionics were “over the top” and was a hindrance to opponents “playing properly”.

John Lloyd, the former British No.1 and Davis Cup captain, said: “You can’t help but think this match was unfair in so many ways. The Kyrgios situation has got to be stopped now. He went way too far with the things he was doing in those first three sets. Think he was fortunate to have been on the court.”

Kyrgios compatriot Pat Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion, said: “Rules are rules and you’ve got to stick by them.”

Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas shake hands very briefly!

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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