Kyrgios barks, mocks his way to Australian Open’s 3rd round

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Love him or hate him — and make no mistake, there are plenty in each camp — Nick Kyrgios never allows for a dull moment when he’s on a tennis court, whether it’s shot selection, showmanship, momentum swings, barking at his entourage or mocking another player not even involved in the match at hand.

All of the above happened during his ever-eventful 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory over Gilles Simon in the Australian Open’s second round Thursday night.

That included a moment when Kyrgios – currently on six months’ probation from the ATP for verbally abusing tennis officials – poked fun at the man he might meet in the fourth round, Rafael Nadal. After being warned for taking more than the allotted 25 seconds between serves, Kyrgios mimicked how Nadal fidgets before a point, as if to remind the chair umpire that there are folks who more egregiously waste time.

When a reporter asked Nadal about Kyrgios’ imitation of the 19-time major champion, the Spaniard replied: “I really don’t care. I’m here to play tennis.”

About the only boring segment of the proceedings came during the in-stadium interview, when an allusion was made to later rounds and Kyrgios, an Australian seeded 23rd, told the Melbourne Arena crowd, “I’m not thinking ahead. … I’m just taking it one match at a time at the moment.”

Zzzzzzzz.

After Kyrgios wrapped up, the No. 1-seeded Nadal was still in the early stages of what became a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-1 win against Federico Delbonis over at Rod Laver Arena.

Those results were the most intriguing of Day 4 at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament, especially given the distaste Kyrgios and Nadal have for each other in a raucous rivalry that provided one of the highlights of Wimbledon in 2019.

Never too early to begin pondering a meeting with a quarterfinal berth at stake during Week 2 in Melbourne, with the popular Nadal facing the home-backed Kyrgios.

For that to materialize, Kyrgios first needs to beat No. 16 Karen Khachanov of Russia on Saturday, when Nadal plays No. 27 Pablo Carreno Busta in an all-Spanish matchup.

A massive overnight storm blew dirt all over town, turning the Yarra River brown and leaving traces of red dust on the blue courts Thursday. The playing surfaces required power washing, which delayed the start of action on some outside courts for more than four hours.

Among the noteworthy winners were U.S. Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev, who took a medical timeout because of a nosebleed late in the second set of his 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez, along with two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem, No. 7 Alexander Zverev, No. 10 Gael Monfils and a trio of women who have been ranked No. 1 and own Grand Slam titles: Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza.

Nothing captivated a crowd quite like Kyrgios did against Simon, a 35-year-old from France who is ranked 61st.

Not all for good reasons, though.

Yes, Kyrgios delighted the fans with his between-the-legs shots and his booming serves — to the tune of 28 aces, including one at 136 mph to end the match.

He also probably made them nervous with the way he seemed to completely give away the third set after twice being a single point from serving for the win, holding break chances while already leading 4-2. Kyrgios dropped the last four games of that set, no longer showing the patience in baseline exchanges that helped build a lead in the first place.

There also were the consecutive double-faults that allowed Simon to get to 4-all with his first break of the match.

That was part of a stretch in which Kyrgios veered off course for quite a while. The talented 24-year-old went from a total of 10 unforced errors over the first couple of sets to 30 over the next two.

During the changeover before the fourth set, Kyrgios expressed his displeasure with the sort of support he was getting from his group in the audience – which included former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt – sarcastically huffing: “So creative. So creative. So creative. Out of all the things you could say: ‘Stay tough.’ Thanks, man. Thanks. ‘Stay tough.’ That’s what I get. Every break point: ‘Stay tough.’ Wow. Wow. Wow.”

Kyrgios later described himself with a vulgar term for that reaction and said he apologized to his entourage in the locker room.

“They don’t deserve that. They do a lot of things for me, on and off the court,” he said. “No, it’s not acceptable from me. Nothing to do with them.”

Eventually, he got himself headed back in the right direction, earning break points at 5-all in the fourth with the help of an unnecessary leaping backhand that seemed to fly out of control yet somehow landed on the baseline. Kyrgios got that key break with a forehand winner to lead 6-5, then extended his arm toward the spectators.

He served it out with a trio of aces, adding to his pledge of 200 Australian dollars per ace this month – there have been 111 in singles thus far, so 22,200 Australian dollars’ worth – to help relief efforts for the wildfires burning around his country.

Then he turned toward the stands behind the baseline and let out a roar.

“Could have gone to a dark place, and I brought it back. I somehow scraped the win,” Kyrgios said later. “Maturity? I don’t know. I’m just happy to get the win.”

Tennis star Kyrgios to contest Australian assault charge

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CANBERRA, Australia – Tennis star Nick Kyrgios was due to appear in an Australian court Friday to apply to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds.

His lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared in a court in Kyrgios’ hometown of Canberra in October and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Friday, when lawyers for the 27-year-old Australian are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

Kyrgios, a Wimbledon finalist last year, is set to appear in court in person for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July last year.

His hearing was listed to start at 2:15 p.m. local time (0315 GMT).

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and if dealing with an allegation in such a way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police in December that year.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense in September last year to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for Friday’s hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because of an injured left knee that required arthroscopic surgery.

He was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year in singles and teamed with good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to claim the men’s doubles championship at the 2022 Australian Open.

Kyrgios was considered the host country’s strongest chance to win a title at Melbourne Park last month before he had to pull out of the tournament. Djokovic went on to win the Australian Open singles championship for the 10th time.

Australian Open director: Novak Djokovic’s hamstring had 3-cm tear

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Novak Djokovic played at the Grand Slam event with a muscle tear of 3 centimeters – a little more than an inch – in his left hamstring along the way to winning the championship.

“He gets a bad rap, but at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone can question his athleticism. This guy, I did see, he had a 3-centimeter tear in his hammy,” Tiley said in an interview.

“The doctors are … going to tell you the truth,” Tiley said. “I think there was a lot of speculation of whether it was true or not. It’s hard to believe that someone can do what they do with those types of injuries. But he’s remarkable.”

Djokovic won the trophy at Melbourne Park by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets for a record-extending 10th title there and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam trophy overall. Rafael Nadal is the only other man who has won that many majors.

The triumph also allowed Djokovic to return to No. 1 in the ATP rankings.

The 35-year-old from Serbia hurt his hamstring during a tune-up tournament in Adelaide ahead of the Australian Open. He wore a heavy bandage on his left thigh and was visited by trainers during matches in Week 1 in Melbourne.

He said he took “a lot” of painkiller pills and did various treatments to help the leg.

“Let me put it like this: I don’t say 100%, but 97% of the players, when you get results of the MRI, you go straight to the referee’s office and pull out of the tournament,” Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, said after the final. “But not him. … His brain is working different.”