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Kyrgios shout causes stir on soaked French Open Day 1

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PARIS — It all started with what Nick Kyrgios insisted was an innocuous, if admittedly loud, directive to a ball kid to retrieve a towel between points – shouted above the din of spectators at the French Open’s cozy Court 1.

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos considered Kyrgios’ bark during a first-set tiebreaker Sunday too forceful and assessed a code violation warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. That led to a long-running, and occasionally curse-filled, argument from the 21-year-old Australian, who at one point said the official was “unbelievably biased.”

Much as the 17th-seeded Kyrgios made of the disagreement at the time – he could have been docked a point for his colorful language – he managed to set it aside eventually and worked his way through a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory over 124th-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy with the help of 16 aces, providing a bit of a spark on an otherwise dreary, drenched Day 1 at Roland Garros.

“It didn’t put me off too much,” Kyrgios said of his flap with Ramos. “With someone like me that’s pretty emotional, it can frustrate me a little bit, but I felt like I dealt with it pretty well.”

Of the 32 matches on Sunday’s schedule, his was one of only nine completed before showers created a rain delay of more than 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon, interrupting matches involving No. 5 Kei Nishikori, No. 23 Jack Sock and others.

Winners included two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who acknowledged feeling “kind of down mentally” and was one game from bowing out against 59th-ranked Danka Kovinic of Montenegro before taking the final three for a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 escape. Also advancing was No. 19 Benoit Paire of France, who needed five sets to get past 137th-ranked qualifier Radu Albot of Moldova.

Right after the ruling that bothered him, Kyrgios asked whether he was being sanctioned for raising his voice in the direction of the ball kid, explaining that “the crowd was too loud for him to hear me.”

Ramos nodded.

“Really?” Kyrgios asked.

“It’s not that you said, `Towel!’ too loud,” Ramos said. “It’s the way you said it.”

Moments later, Kyrgios raised the topic again, insisting to Ramos, “I did nothing wrong” and referring to an episode this month at the Italian Open, when No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic reached out to grab the arm of an official who had stepped onto the court to examine a disputed ball mark.

“When Djokovic pushed the line umpire out of the way, he gets nothing,” Kyrgios said, punctuating the complaint with a swear word.

At his news conference afterward, Kyrgios was asked about the Djokovic reference and replied: “I mean, I think we all know, in this room, if that was me that did that, it would be an absolute circus. But if he did it, you know, nothing really happened of it. It speaks for itself.”

He also offered a hint of a conciliatory tone, saying “it’s not an easy job out there” for chair umpires and that he “might have to be a bit more patient” with ball kids.

Kyrgios is known for spectacular play – he’s beaten Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and twice reached Grand Slam quarterfinals – and boorish behavior. He was placed on probation by the ATP last year, with the risk of a 28-day suspension, for comments toward 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka during a match in Montreal.

Not everything came easily against Cecchinato. Kyrgios converted just 1 of 11 break points. He slipped on the damp court in the sixth game and tumbled into the net, staying down until Cecchinato offered a hand. And Kyrgios was forced to save two set points in the second tiebreaker.

Still, he played well enough to eliminate Cecchinato, who is 0-4 in Grand Slam matches and 3-18 at all tour-level tournaments and said he didn’t pay attention to the Kyrgios-Ramos exchanges.

Cecchinato also offered a nuanced defense of Kyrgios’ character.

“I like him, because he’s arrogant and sure of himself. … He knows he’s good,” Cecchinato said. “`Arrogant’ in a good sense – he knows he’s strong and one of the best players in the world. `Arrogant’ not in a pejorative way, but in a positive way.”

 

Nastase banned from Fed Cup and Davis Cup until 2019

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LONDON — Ilie Nastase has been banned from the Fed Cup and Davis Cup until 2019 because of his foul-mouthed comments and bad behavior as Romania’s captain during a Fed Cup match against Britain.

In addition to the ban, the International Tennis Federation said Friday the 1973 French Open champion will not be able to work in an official capacity for a further two years, until 2021.

The 71-year-old Nastase was also fined $10,000. He has three weeks to appeal the decision.

“Mr. Nastase made a comment about Serena Williams’s unborn child that was highly inappropriate and racially insensitive,” the ITF said.

Nastase also “made advances of a sexual nature towards Anne Keothavong, the captain of the Great Britain team” and “made abusive and threatening comments to the match officials and to members of the Great Britain team.”

Although he will have to sit out ITF events, the ban does not apply to Grand Slam, ATP or WTA tournaments, which are not under the governing body’s jurisdiction.

Nastase was provisionally suspended in April after he speculated about the skin color of the baby that Williams is expecting and for outbursts during a Fed Cup match between Romania and Britain.

He previously acknowledged making mistakes and having shortcomings, but stressed “the cause I fight for is tennis, the sport I really love, which I cannot separate from my life.”

As Fed Cup captain, Nastase hurled abuse at British player Johanna Konta, Keothavong and the umpire. The referee ejected Nastase.

Nastase, a former top-ranked player, was barred from the French Open and was not invited to the Royal Box at Wimbledon, where he was a two-time finalist.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

World Cup of Tennis put on hold for at least a year

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LONDON–The International Tennis Federation is putting off its proposal for a World Cup of Tennis Finals for another year.

The ITF said last month it wanted to combine next year’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup finals into one event to raise the profile of the two national team competitions. But on Thursday, the governing body said it would not put the motion to a vote at its annual general meeting next month in Vietnam.

Other proposals, such as reducing the men’s matches to best-of-three sets and possibly skipping the final match of the series if it is already decided, will still go before member nations for ratification at the Aug. 4 meeting in Ho Chi Minh City.

“We promised change and are already delivering change with a significant series of reforms,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “Taking another year to build consensus around the World Cup of Tennis Finals will allow us to finalize an even stronger recommendation to the AGM.”

Last month, the ITF said it wanted to start staging the World Cup of Tennis in November 2018 in Geneva. The Swiss city was to host the event for three years at its 18,000-seat Palexpo.

The ITF said then that it had made the announcement of the host city well in advance in an effort to follow the successful model used by the Super Bowl and Champions League final.

But that has now been put on hold as the governing body tries to sell its idea to its voting members.

“This decision shows that we do not act unilaterally,” Haggerty said, “and are working with all our stakeholders to find the best solution for tennis.”

Haggerty also announced the creation of a World Cup of Tennis Finals task force. Board members Katrina Adams and Bernard Giudicelli have been appointed as co-chairs.

“The World Cup of Tennis Finals will unlock considerable new revenue for investing back into the sport through the ITF’s member nations,” Haggerty said. “Investment in the development of the next generation remains the priority of the ITF and its national associations.”