Nick Kyrgios crashed out of the Australian Open last night, falling 10-8 in the fifth set to Andreas Seppi despite taking the match’s first two sets.
Over the course of the match, the 21-year-old Aussie displayed all the different versions of himself — alternately extraordinary and deeply disappointing.
He took the first two sets with ease, received a point penalty for smashing his racket after an earlier confrontation with the chair umpire, and attempted an ill-advised tweener down a break in the 5th set. Then, serving at 8-8 in the 5th, Kyrgios doubled faulted to give Seppi the break that ultimately decided the match.
Although he had match point against Seppi earlier in the match, as we have seen for some time now it was ultimately Kyrgios’ mental struggles that got the better of him.
This self-destructive behaviour on court, coupled with his not infrequent flashes of brilliance, continue to make Kyrgios the most polarising player in tennis.
After the loss, tennis great John McEnroe ripped Kyrgios from the broadcasting booth for his attitude problems.
“Even I’m at a loss for words,” said McEnroe. “Overall I would call it a damn shame because I think he’s the most talented guy in the world 21 and under — maybe even at 29 and under.”
He continued: “He could be the best player in the world, but mentally he’s No. 200 in the world, and I think at critical moments it showed.”
Down a break at 6-5 in the fifth set, Kyrgios tried a tweener that gave McEnroe a conniption.
“It’s OK to show your emotions, and I’d like to see that in a one-on-one game when you’re out there by yourself,” McEnroe said, “but when he goes through those periods when he’s not competing, that it’s just a black eye for the sport. And it’s a black eye for him.”
After the match, Kyrgios brushed off McEnroe’s criticism.
“I mean, John McEnroe, was it John McEnroe?” Kyrgios said. “Good on him. Great career. Good on him.”
As for his own performance, Kyrgios seemed almost unbothered.
“It’s obviously disappointing, but it was ultimately a pretty fun match,” he said. “He’s a great guy and he deserved it, so. … I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It could have gone either way.”
Over the course of the match, as Kyrgios started to melt down, the Australian crowd appeared to turn on Kyrgios. Smatterings of boos echoed throughout the stadium. Kyrgios heard them.
“Obviously it’s not the greatest thing to hear,” he said. “I didn’t have the best preparation coming into the Australian Open. Pretty banged up, my body. But getting booed off, definitely not the best feeling.”
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