How the match was won will probably not be remembered. Kyrgios’ meltdown will be, his afternoon filled with racquet 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.
When it 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 walked past him and said a few more words before packing up his racquet bag and walking off the court.
Kyrgios was in such a rush to leave that he left without grabbing the red, white and black Nike sneakers that were next to his seat. He had a doubles match to play later on Tuesday and tournament officials said he planned to hold a press conference after that match.
Kyrgios spoke earlier in this tournament about how he was inspired by women’s star Naomi Osaka and how she shed light on the mental difficulties that even elite athletes can face. He acknowledged that he also solved problems.
“I felt like I was constantly playing under so much mental stress and negativity that I really couldn’t function with the pressure anymore,” Kyrgios said earlier this week. “I couldn’t function with negativity. Every day was just constant negativity from you, possibly my family, possibly my friends, everyone. There was no positivity, it was eating at me and I honestly hated my life. It took a long time… but I’m just happy now.
Happiness eluded him earlier this month in Indian Wells. After losing in the quarter-finals there to Rafael Nadal and shaking hands, Kyrgios went to his seat and smashed his racquet – which nearly hit a ball boy. This earned him a $25,000 fine for a combination of his antics and audible obscenity.
Another fine could arrive, since his declared happiness was not there on Tuesday either.
The fireworks started in earnest in a first-set tiebreaker, when Kyrgios missed a forehand wide and then slammed his racket down the court. He was already angry with Bernardes, for reasons that weren’t immediately clear.
“You have no idea. You have absolutely no idea,” Kyrgios told the referee during the substitution, when he led the tiebreaker 4-2.
He double faulted to go down 5-2, appeared to speak to someone near the side of the field, then let out a short cry. He recovered a point to lose 5-3, and that’s when Bernardes had apparently heard enough and handed Kyrgios a penalty point for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“You’re talking about me,” Bernardes told Kyrgios, who insisted he was just talking to a friend sitting nearby.
Kyrgios then double faulted to lose the set and that’s when the emotions really boiled over.
“What is unsportsmanlike? What is unsportsmanlike? he repeatedly asked Bernardes, before shouting that he wanted to speak to a tournament official.
“Find me someone now!” Kyrgios said, then smashed his racquet on the court four times. That’s when Bernardes inflicted the game penalty, putting Kyrgios on hold before the second set even started, and Sinner kept the lead until the end.
It’s far from the first time that on-field antics have overshadowed the game.
In 2019, Kyrgios left the court and threw a chair on red clay during a fit of rage during his second round match at the Italian Open, which resulted in him defaulting on a payment and a fine. 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 rude remarks during a game in Montreal, earning him a $12,500 fine and a suspended 28-day suspension.
“There is no time for regret for me, and I am continuing now,” Kyrgios said earlier this week. “I just try to be positive, try to help others and try to uplift myself.”
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