Murray overcomes Kyrgios and his antics at US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Nick Kyrgios does what he wants and says what he wants on a tennis court, seemingly no matter the ramifications, and amid all the near-napping, cursing and racket smashing, he troubled Andy Murray for moments at the U.S. Open.

Only for brief moments, though.

In the tournament’s most-anticipated first-round matchup, the No. 3-seeded Murray hit 18 aces, saved 11 of 14 break points and, perhaps most importantly, stayed steady in the face of Kyrgios’ various distractions, putting together a 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 victory Tuesday night.

“Obviously, for me, it’s important when you’re playing against him,” Murray said, “to just concentrate on your side of the court.”

This was Kyrgios’ first match since he was essentially put on probation by the ATP, with the threat of a 28-day suspension and $25,000 fine if he misbehaves at one of the tour’s sanctioned events over the next six months. Those parameters don’t apply at the U.S. Open, however, because Grand Slam tournaments are sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation.

That stemmed from some trash-talking last month against Stan Wawrinka in Montreal, where a courtside microphone picked up Kyrgios saying that his pal, Australian pro Thanasi Kokkinakis, had been with Wawrinka’s girlfriend. Kyrgios was fined a total of $12,500 the next day by the ATP, which later said it would monitor his behavior.

“I thought I’ve been dealing with that pretty well. Obviously it’s been tough. But I think I’ve moved on from it,” the 20-year-old Kyrgios said at Tuesday’s post-match news conference, referring to the whole Montreal episode and its aftermath. “I’d like to think that I’m going to learn from it. I think I have. I think I’m on the right path. I don’t think any of us in this room right now were perfect at 20. Speak up if you were.”

When that was greeted by silence from reporters, Kyrgios nodded and said: “Thought so.”

Later, asked what he meant by saying he had learned something along the way, Kyrgios replied: “Keep your mouth shut at times.”

Against Murray, Kyrgios was not exactly concerned with containing himself.

He was given a warning by chair umpire Carlos Ramos for swearing too loudly. He complained to Ramos that spectators were being allowed to wander to their seats during a game. He spiked his racket against the court and later whacked it against a wall behind the baseline. He won a point with the help of a shot between his legs. He whiffed on a leaping overhead attempt. Most oddly, Kyrgios leaned all the way back in his changeover chair during breaks, closing his eyes and resting against his towel or clutching it like a kid’s blanket, looking as if he were about to doze off.

“Just taking a nap, I guess,” he said afterward. “It’s good for you.”

Boris Becker, a six-time major champion as a player and now No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s coach, sat courtside for the match. In an on-air interview during ESPN’s broadcast, Becker said Kyrgios could stand to talk a little less and “should be famous for his on-court performance and not his antics.”

What happened in Montreal has been a chief topic of conversation in tennis over the past few weeks, and Murray was asked to weigh in before facing Kyrgios, who is ranked 37th and is talented enough to have stunned Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year and beaten Roger Federer this year.

“We all make mistakes … and for him, it’s unfortunate that’s its happening in front of millions of millions of people,” said Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open champion. “And I think it’s wrong, a lot of the things that he’s done, but I also think that he’s still young, and everyone’s different. People mature and grow up at different rates.”

Asked Tuesday about the tour’s handling of the matter, Wawrinka, a two-time major champion who could face Murray in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, said: “I don’t care much about that anymore.”

Kokkinakis, similarly, told reporters: “I’ve moved past it. I’m sure you guys will at some point, too.”

Kokkinakis stopped playing Tuesday because of cramps against 12th-seeded Richard Gasquet, one of a record 12 mid-match retirements in the first round at Flushing Meadows, where the temperature has topped 90 degrees and the humidity has been heavy.

The previous mark for most players quitting because of injury or illness during any round of any Grand Slam tournament in the professional era, which dates to 1968, was nine in the first round of the 2011 U.S. Open.

Ten men and two women have dropped out so far, including five Tuesday: Kokkinakis, Marcos Baghdatis, Ernests Gulbis, Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Marina Erakovic.

“For sure,” Wawrinka said, “it’s surprising to see so many players pull out.”

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Nick Bollettieri, coach to many tennis stars, dies at 91

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Nick Bollettieri, the Hall of Fame tennis coach who worked with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Andre Agassi and Monica Seles, and founded an academy that revolutionized the development of young athletes, died at 91.

Bollettieri died at home in Florida after a series of health issues, his manager, Steve Shulla, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“When he became sick, he got so many wonderful messages from former students and players and coaches. Many came to visit him. He got videos from others,” Shulla said. “It was wonderful. He touched so many lives and he had a great send-off.”

Known for his gravelly voice, leathery skin and wraparound sunglasses – and a man who called himself the “Michelangelo of Tennis” despite never playing professionally – Bollettieri helped no fewer than 10 players who went on to be No. 1 in the world rankings. That group includes sisters Serena and Venus Williams, Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova, Agassi and Seles.

“Our dear friend, Nick Bollettieri, graduated from us last night. He gave so many a chance to live their dream,” Agassi wrote on Twitter. “He showed us all how life can be lived to the fullest. Thank you, Nick.”

Bollettieri remained active into his 80s, touring the world to drop in on the top tournaments and, in 2014, became only the fourth coach to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. That was the same year another one of his proteges, Kei Nishikori, reached the final of the U.S. Open.

Six of his pupils already are in the Hall of Fame, a number sure to grow once others are eligible.

“I forged my own path, which others found to be unorthodox and downright crazy,” Bollettieri said in his induction speech at the hall in Newport, Rhode Island. “Yes, I am crazy. But it takes crazy people to do things that other people say cannot be done.”

The Bollettieri Tennis Academy opened in 1978 in Bradenton, Florida, and was purchased by IMG in 1987.

The IMG Academy now spans more than 600 acres and offers programs in more than a half-dozen sports in addition to tennis.

Bollettieri was an educator who would brag he never read a book, never mind that he majored in philosophy in college and even gave law school a try, albeit for less than a year.

He also was an adept self-promoter – one who would publish a pair of autobiographies – no matter that detractors dismissed him as a hustler and huckster. The truth is, any criticism was no match for the astounding success of his pupils.

His teaching methods were widely copied and tennis academies dot the globe today.

“Our sport lost one of its most passionate coaches & advocates,” Hall of Fame member Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter. “Nick was always positive & was able to get the best out of everyone fortunate enough to work w/him.”

Bollettieri’s first student to reach No. 1 was Boris Becker in 1991. Then came others, such as Martina Hingis, Marcelo Rios and Jelena Jankovic.

Just as rewarding, Bollettieri said, were the successes of less accomplished players.

“The fuel that has sustained me to the summit is, without a doubt, my passion to help others become champions of life, not champions just on the tennis court,” he said. “Nothing makes me more happy than when I run into a past student or receive a kind note telling me how I changed their lives, that they are better parents, lawyers, doctors, CEOs and people because of the impact I made on their lives.”

Bollettieri’s devotion to his players came at a cost. For much of his career, he was on the road nine months out of every year, and he cited his travel schedule as one reason he was married eight times.

Survivors include his wife, Cindi, seven children and four grandchildren, according to Shulla, who said a celebration of Bollettieri’s life is planned for March.

Nicholas James Bollettieri was born July 31, 1931, in Pelham, New York. He earned a philosophy degree and played tennis at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and was a paratrooper in the Army before enrolling in law school at the University of Miami.

For spending money, Bollettieri began teaching tennis for $1.50 an hour, according to the Hall of Fame. More than 60 years later, his fee was $900.

After a few months, he dropped out of law school to concentrate on coaching. At first, he conceded, knowledge of tennis technique wasn’t his forte.

“I didn’t know much about teaching the game,” he said. “The gift God gave me was the ability to read people.”

Bollettieri won praise for his motivational skills, yelling when he deemed it necessary. He had an eye for talent and was a visionary regarding boot-camp training for young athletes who lived together.

He bought a club in 1978, and students lived in his house. Two years later, he borrowed $1 million from a friend to build a first-of-its-kind complex in what had been a tomato field.

The site now has a boarding school, 55 tennis courts and facilities for seven other sports, including football, basketball and baseball.

Running a business wasn’t Bollettieri’s strong suit, and he sold the academy to IMG but continued to work there, stressing a tactical approach that transformed tennis. He urged players to take advantage of modern racket technology, emphasizing power over finesse.

The academy churned out big hitters who relied on their serve and forehand to overpower opponents. That approach worked for Agassi, Seles, Courier and many others.

“In my dreams,” Bollettieri confessed with a grin, “I say, `Nick, you’re darn good.”‘

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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LONDON – Former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco accepted a voluntary provisional doping suspension of two months after testing positive for a medication for ADHD, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Verdasco, who turned 39 this month, said he was taking methylphenidate as medication prescribed by his doctor to treat ADHD but forgot to renew his therapeutic use exemption for the drug. The integrity agency said Verdasco has now been granted an exemption by the World Anti-Doping Agency moving forward.

He tested positive at an ATP Challenger tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The integrity agency said in a news release that it “accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” and so what could have been a two-year suspension was reduced to two months.

Verdasco will be eligible to compete on Jan. 8.

The Spaniard is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, reaching that stage most recently in 2013 at Wimbledon, where he blew a two-set lead in a five-set loss to eventual champion Andy Murray.

Verdasco reached a career-best ranking of No. 7 in April 2009 and currently is No. 125.