‘Barely getting angry’: Nick Kyrgios quickly out in D.C.

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WASHINGTON — Nick Kyrgios’ last name is on a blue awning above the lower bowl of the Citi Open’s main stadium to commemorate his 2019 title at the hard-court tournament. On Tuesday night, as the reigning champion at an event canceled last year because of the pandemic, Kyrgios bowed out after two flat sets over 77 minutes.

Kyrgios offered up the occasional crowd-pleaser – an early underhand serve, for example – but otherwise did not look anything like the guy who was so good and so engaged at the U.S. Open tuneup two years ago, losing 6-4, 6-4 to Mackenzie McDonald in the first round.

“I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to feel. I just don’t feel as if I’m in the moment as I used to be, I guess,” Kyrgios said. “I feel like I actually enjoyed my tennis more when it was so up and down. Like you see me today – like, I’m losing and I’m barely getting angry. I actually miss the days when I was losing and I was carrying on and I was getting fined and I was throwing my rackets.”

That way of behaving, Kyrgios said, meant he cared a lot about the outcome. And now?

“Now I lose and I’m actually happy for the other guy,” he said. “Back then, I couldn’t stand the other guy.”

There wasn’t much of Kyrgios’ customary animation at all, even under the lights and with a mostly full arena in which spectators offered plenty of shouts of “Come on, Nick!”

“He’s honestly really good for our sport and he deserves all the support that he has,” McDonald said.

“He can play lights out. He can get the fans on his side. It’s never easy playing a guy like that, especially a night match,” the 107th-ranked McDonald said. “I’m happy with just how I controlled what I could control.”

Kyrgios wasted little time before points, often tossing the ball in the air with 19 or 20 seconds still on the 25-second serve clock, or during them, going for quick-strike shots early in exchanges and often missing the mark.

In a word, Kyrgios was blah. When it ended, he plopped himself down on his sideline seat and shook his head.

He has been ranked as high as 13th and is currently 77th. This was only his fourth tournament of the season; the Australian’s record fell to 7-5.

“Ultimately, like, I know I can’t be too hard on myself. I haven’t played a lot of matches or any of that type of stuff. … I played pretty average. My body feels pretty average,” Kyrgios said. “But he played well. He made enough returns. He played the big points well. He should be proud.”

Two years ago in Washington, Kyrgios was both entertaining – chatting with fans between points to ask where he should direct his booming serves – and effective, beating a couple of guys who have reached Grand Slam finals in 2021, Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals and Daniil Medvedev in the final.

McDonald, a 26-year-old Californian who played college tennis at UCLA, saved all five break points he faced Tuesday, including a pair while serving out the victory.

“I was lucky I came up with some good shots on those,” McDonald said.

He’ll next face No. 13 seed Benoit Paire.

Two younger Americans won earlier: Sebastian Korda, who is less than a month past his 21st birthday; Brandon Nakashima, who turned 20 on Tuesday.

The 12th-seeded Korda moved into the third round by beating Vasek Pospisil of Canada 7-5, 6-4. Wild-card entry Nakashima, the runner-up in his past two ATP appearances, defeated Alexei Popyrin of Australia 6-3, 6-3 in a first-round match.

Nakashima made it to the championship matches at Los Cabos – losing to Cameron Norrie last month – and Atlanta – losing to John Isner on Sunday – to become the youngest U.S. man to reach multiple tour finals since Andy Roddick made it to seven as a teenager from 2001-02.

Roddick would go on to reach No. 1 in the rankings and win the 2003 U.S. Open, the last Grand Slam title for an American man.

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

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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.