MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Nick Kyrgios lost his cool, then a point, then a game and then the match.
The all-too-familiar trend that has often overshadowed the super-popular, super-talented and super-perplexing Australian’s career path continued at the Miami Open, where Kyrgios was ousted in the fourth round by No. 9 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy 7-6 (3), 6-3.
How the match was won likely won’t be remembered. Kyrgios’ meltdown will be, his afternoon replete with racket throws and smashes, plenty of heated words with chair umpire Carlos Bernardes and even a fan somehow trying to get a selfie when tensions were at their peak.
But Kyrgios insisted that Bernardes should bear some blame for what transpired, adding that he believed the umpire disrupted his play by talking during a serve.
“When everyone in that crowd is booing an umpire, and he’s becoming the center of attention, that’s not his job,” Kyrgios said. “Because no one in that entire stadium bought a ticket to see him talk or play or do what he does.”
When the match was over, Kyrgios was gracious with his opponent, shaking his hand at the net and exchanging a few pleasantries. Sinner then shook hands with Bernardes, as is tradition, but Kyrgios passed by him and got in a few more words before packing up his racket bag and walking off the court.
“He’s not even going to get a slap on the wrist for his dreadful umpiring performance today,” Kyrgios said. “He was horrendous.”
Kyrgios was in such a hurry to leave that he departed without grabbing the red-white-and-black Nike sneakers that were next to his seat. He teamed with Thanasi Kokkinakis to win a doubles match later Tuesday, then explained his side of what had gone on in singles a few hours earlier.
“I have never been a part of a match where an umpire was hated that much,” Kyrgios said. “Today, he made it about himself, like his feelings got hurt apparently from what I said, from what the crowd’s feeling. You can’t be like that if you’re an umpire. I’m sorry.”
Kyrgios spoke earlier in this tournament about how he took inspiration from women’s star Naomi Osaka and the way she has shed light on the mental struggles that even elite athletes can face. He acknowledged that he’s worked through issues as well, and that he felt like he was facing “constant negativity.”
“I got frustrated,” Kyrgios said Tuesday. “Can I not get frustrated?”
Kyrgios said he’s been in a happier place of late, though that happiness got away from him earlier this month at Indian Wells. After losing in the quarterfinals there to Rafael Nadal and shaking hands, Kyrgios went to his seat and smashed his racket – which wound up nearly striking a ball boy. That earned him a $25,000 fine for a combination of his antics and an audible obscenity.
Kyrgios revealed Tuesday that he found the ball boy from Indian Wells a day later and presented him with a racket as an apology.
“That’s something he’s going to remember like his entire life. The ATP doesn’t … pick up any media things on that,” Kyrgios said.
Another fine might be coming, since that his professed happiness wasn’t there Tuesday, either.
Sinner didn’t know much about what made Kyrgios so upset. “I just tried to stay in my zone, and, yeah, I think that was the right choice,” Sinner said.
The fireworks seemed to start when a walkie-talkie went off during a point at 4-4 in the first set. They picked up considerably during the first-set tiebreaker, when Kyrgios missed a forehand wide and then slammed his racket to the court. He was already upset with Bernardes, for reasons that weren’t immediately clear.
“You have no idea. You have absolutely no idea,” Kyrgios told the umpire during the changeover, when he trailed the tiebreak 4-2.
He double-faulted to go down 5-2, seemed to be speaking to someone near the side of the court, then gave a brief yell. He got a point back to go down 5-3, and that’s when Bernardes apparently had heard enough and issued Kyrgios a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“You’re talking about me,” Bernardes told Kyrgios, who insisted he was merely talking to a friend seated nearby.
Kyrgios then double-faulted to lose the set and that’s when emotions truly spilled over.
“What’s unsportsmanlike? What is unsportsmanlike?” he asked Bernardes repeatedly, before screaming that he wanted to talk to a tournament official.
“Get me someone now!” Kyrgios said, then smashed his racket on the court four times. That’s when Bernardes issued the game penalty, putting Kyrgios down a break before the second set even started, and Sinner kept the lead the rest of the way.
This is far from the first time Kyrgios’ on-court antics have overshadowed his play.
In 2019, he walked off the court and threw a chair onto the red clay during a fit of rage during his second-round match at the Italian Open, leading to him being defaulted and fined. Kyrgios was suspended by the ATP Tour for two months in 2016 for “tanking” a match and insulting fans during a loss at the Shanghai Masters. And in 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal, earning him a $12,500 fine and a suspended 28-day ban.
“I know I’m a good person,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t really care, but I don’t understand what could you possibly fine me for today.”