Twenty-year-old Australian player Nick Kyrgios became the talk of the tennis world on Monday for his antics during a fourth-round loss to Richard Gasquet at Wimbledon.
In addition to getting in an argument with the chair umpire because he wanted to change his socks, Kyrgios stopped trying and tanked an entire game after receiving a warning for cursing early in the second set.
He simply let Gasquet’s serves go by for aces, or tapped his returns into the net like this:
The fans booed, the commentators scolded him, and after the match he had a contemptuous press conference with media members who wanted him to answer for his bit of tanking.
But not all of the tennis world is bent out of shape about this. Many people feel that strategic tanking can be a useful tactic at times.
One of the most eloquent defences of Kyrgios came from Roger Federer, who was surprisingly candid about the controversy in his post-match press conference on Monday. Federer compared what Kyrgios did to a boxer dropping his hands for a few seconds to regain his composure, and said it’s understandable for a young player to get frustrated and take off a game to regroup.
When asked if Kyrgios disrespected the paying fans by throwing a game, Federer said, “A game is like 55 seconds.”
“So one game to me is part of tactics, as well, sometimes to throw the other guy off,” he explained. “Maybe yourself, you can be frustrated and just not feel like it for a couple of points.”
His full response is great (via Christopher Clarey):
REPORTER: There was a moment on Court 2 today when Kyrgios appeared to tank a game, not try.
FEDERER: One game?
REPORTER: One game, yeah. Can you understand someone getting frustrated and doing that or do you find that disrespectful?
FEDERER: Towards whom?
REPORTER: Toward the crowd who paid good money to watch you.
FEDERER: A game is like 55 seconds. Again, did he really do it or not? A game where a guy serves well, is that tanking, too? It’s like sometimes it’s like a boxer when he puts his hands down, is that tanking? Then he swings freely again. I think we shouldn’t dig too deep into those kinds of things. If you told me he did an entire set, plus more, plus this, I’d say, ‘OK, it’s a bit much probably.’
But I just watched the end of the third and the end of the fourth. He was fighting then. He was really wanting to win and he should have been in the fifth at the end. So in my opinion, it was a great match and it was close. The fans got their money’s worth, in my opinion. It was a close match last year. He saved nine match points against Richard. Today two.
So one game to me is part of tactics, as well, sometimes to throw the other guy off. Maybe yourself, you can be frustrated and just not feel like it for a couple of points. Especially a younger guy, it’s going to happen more often than one of the top guys that have been around, that just like say, ‘OK, point mentality, we’ll do it again and again and again and again. For younger guys, it’s a little bit boring at times, which I understand.
While it was pretty absurd to watch Kyrgios just stand there and let Gasquet’s serves fly by him, he did recover after that point, winning the third set and pushing Gasquet in the fourth before ultimately losing.
In his own press conference, Kyrgios said he didn’t stop trying and challenged a media member to get a racquet and return Gasquet’s serves himself if it’s so easy.
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