NEW YORK (AP) — Nick Kyrgios does what he wants and says what he wants on a tennis court, seemingly no matter the ramifications, and amid all the near-napping, cursing and racket smashing, he troubled Andy Murray for moments at the U.S. Open.
Only for brief moments, though.
In the tournament’s most-anticipated first-round matchup, the No. 3-seeded Murray hit 18 aces, saved 11 of 14 break points and, perhaps most importantly, stayed steady in the face of Kyrgios’ various distractions, putting together a 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 victory Tuesday night.
This was Kyrgios’ first match since he was essentially put on probation by the ATP, with the threat of a 28-day suspension and $25,000 fine if he misbehaves at one of the tour’s sanctioned events over the next six months. Those parameters don’t apply at the U.S. Open, however, because Grand Slam tournaments are sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation.
That stemmed from some trash-talking last month against Stan Wawrinka in Montreal, where a courtside microphone picked up Kyrgios saying that his pal, Australian pro Thanasi Kokkinakis, had been with Wawrinka’s girlfriend. Kyrgios was fined a total of $12,500 the next day by the ATP.
Nothing of that sort happened Tuesday, but Kyrgios was not exactly concerned with containing himself.
Oddly, he leaned all the way back in his changeover chair during breaks, closing his eyes and resting against his towel or clutching it like a kid’s blanket, looking as if about to doze off for a nap. He spiked his racket against the court and later whacked it against a wall behind the baseline. He was given a warning by chair umpire Carlos Ramos for swearing too loudly. He complained to Ramos that spectators were being allowed to wander to their seats during a game. He won a point with the help of a shot between his legs. He whiffed on a leaping overhead attempt.
Boris Becker, a six-time major champion as a player and now No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s coach, sat courtside during the match. In an on-air interview during ESPN’s broadcast, Becker said Kyrgios could stand to talk a little less and “should be famous for his on-court performance and not his antics.”
The whole Montreal episode has been the talk of tennis over the past few weeks, and Murray was asked to weigh in before facing Kyrgios, a 20-year-old Australian who is ranked 37th and is talented enough to have stunned Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year and beaten Roger Federer this year.
“He’s a young guy, and we all make mistakes, and everyone here when they were 19, 20, would have done some bad things and made some mistakes, and for him, it’s unfortunate that’s its happening in front of millions of millions of people,” said Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open champion. “And I think it’s wrong, a lot of the things that he’s done, but I also think that he’s still young, and everyone’s different. People mature and grow up at different rates.”
Asked Tuesday about the tour’s handling of the matter, Wawrinka, a two-time major champion who could face Murray in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, said: “I don’t care much about that anymore.”
Kokkinakis, similarly, had this to say when asked about what happened in Montreal: “We talked. It’s sorted. It’s not really an issue for me, anyway, at the moment. I’ve known (Kyrgios) for ages. One little thing isn’t going to change too much. That’s not ideal what happened, but I’ve talked to him. I’ve talked to everyone in the incident. I’ve moved past it and I’m sure they will, too.”
Moments later, Kokkinakis told reporters: “I’ve moved past it. I’m sure you guys will at some point, too.”
Kokkinakis spoke after stopping because of cramps against 12th-seeded Richard Gasquet, one of a record 12 mid-match retirements in the first round at Flushing Meadows, where the temperature has topped 90 degrees and the humidity has been heavy.
The previous mark for most players quitting because of injury or illness during any round of any Grand Slam tournament in the professional era, which dates to 1968, was nine in the first round of the 2011 U.S. Open.
Ten men and two women have dropped out so far, including five Tuesday: Kokkinakis, Marcos Baghdatis, Ernests Gulbis, Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Marina Erakovic.
“For sure,” Wawrinka said, “it’s surprising to see so many players pull out.”