CINCINNATI — If you’re at the Western and Southern Open and haven’t had a chance to get on the roller coaster at the nearby Kings Island, fret not! Just sit courtside for a Nick Kyrgios match and it’ll be just as thrilling of a ride.
The explosive Aussie, who made the final here in Cincinnati last year, came through a tricky second round against Croatia’s Borna Coric 7-6 (1), 0-6, 6-3 on Wednesday, to set up a clash with either Juan Martin del Potro or Chung Hyeon, whose clash got postponed to Thursday because of the rain.
Playing with heavy strapping on both knees, which have been sore for the past few days due to compensation for his troubled right hip, Kyrgios blasted 16 aces in the 1hr 47min battle in front of a buoyant Court No. 10 crowd.
Fans in the stands knew what they were in for when they decided to attend that match and the No. 15 seed gave them the full Nick Kyrgios experience.
There were jumping forehands that came at you like a cannonball, monster first and second serves you couldn’t tell apart, an odd tweener here and a slick one-hander there, multiple conversations between Kyrgios and the crowd and, of course, a mid-match rant over a seemingly bad call from a line judge and the chair umpire.
After grabbing the first-set tiebreak, Kyrgios had trouble moving early in the second and muttered “I can’t move, bro” en route to getting broken in the opening game. Two games later, he ran down a Coric ball and played a deft shot that looked like it had landed in but was called out by the officials. With no Hawk-Eye on Court 10, Kyrgios was left fuming, pointing to a mark on the hard court and asking the umpire if he wanted to come check it out. He rallied the crowd behind him and suddenly they were chanting “out, out” at the umpire. Kyrgios put his fingers around his eyes implying the official needed glasses.
So outraged at the whole situation as he fell behind a double-break 0-3 against an ice-cold Coric, Kyrgios threw the ball out of the court and it landed inside the nearby Centre Court, where his girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic was leading world No. 1 Simona Halep.
He received a code violation and a point penalty as a result.
“I’m not going to play if I’m going to get cheated by an umpire,” Kyrgios told his team after the changeover. “You’ll never see a bigger tank than the next three games.”
⚠️ Warning ⚠️
Do NOT try this forehand at home.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 16, 2018
One fan yelled out: “Play for us, Nick.”
Another told Coric: “Let him tank, Borna!”
The dialogue continued between Kyrgios and spectators in the stands.
“He’s having a conversation with us over here. Check out my tweets. This is the greatest thing ever,” tweeted @dc_loves_tennis.
Another Twitter user, @dcarbs33, posted: “This is the most fun match I’ve ever attended.”
Coric ran away with the set and people were not sure which Kyrgios would turn up for the decider. Lucky for them it was the same one who claimed the first set and he got a break with back-to-back hot shots to lead 3-1, letting out a huge ‘come on’ in celebration.
He held on to his advantage and wrapped up the win shortly after. Kyrgios took that match having won two less points than Coric throughout (85 to the Croatian’s 87).
“I knew I was always going to compete in the third set. I competed too hard in the first set not to sort of just let the match slip and not compete, give myself a chance to win, at least,” explained Kyrgios after the win.
“Yeah, the second set, when I was 4-0 down, I knew there was no real point of me going out there and competing and obviously waste energy trying to battle back against like a guy like that.
“I knew at 4-0, if I lost the set 6-0, I was going to be serving first in the third set, and I think I carried a lot of momentum from the first game, and it ended up being a smart move.”
Kyrgios right in front of me: “If I just had some decent health I’d actually be pretty good…”
— Doug Collins (@dc_loves_tennis) August 16, 2018
Nick Kyrgios impatiently waiting on the line to receive from Coric: “When I’m at a restaurant and I’m hungry, I want to waiter to bring my food right now” 😂😂😂
— Doug Collins (@dc_loves_tennis) August 16, 2018
— Doug Collins (@dc_loves_tennis) August 16, 2018
Kyrgios had ice packs on both knees as he addressed the press and admits they are feeling sore.
Asked about his multiple conversations with the fans and whether it’s a distraction or a welcome sidebar, Kyrgios said: “They’re talking to me and then I just kind of respond. It just keeps me relaxed.
“I mean, I don’t think it bothers me too much. It’s not really affecting my play, so I don’t do it just for some fun or anything. I just respond, just like talking to anyone.”
With several question marks regarding his body, Kyrgios seems to be taking things one day at a time, trying to manage his hip, and knees the best way he can.
I know that right now I can still serve through these matches, and that’s enough for me to compete and hang with these guys.
“At this stage, I’m just going to try and get through the US swing and then just re-evaluate where I’m at. Obviously I’ve got an eye on Laver Cup. I really want to compete my hardest and play my hardest. I’ve got an eye on that, but then I’m obviously going to re-evaluate and see what I can do for my body moving forward,” explained the 23-year-old.
“I can’t get hurt, that’s most important. But I need to do other things than just play tennis all the time. There’s going to be come scary moments, I know that. I do hope that the skill-set from tennis comes into play in a big, big way today. Bear, I might look like a tough guy on the tennis court, but I’m actually very scared of a lot of things in life. There’s going to be scary moments for me, so just hold my hand.”
Those were Roger Federer‘s words at the start of the Running Wild with Bear Grylls episode he filmed with the famous British adventurer. The episode was actually shot a year and a half ago, after Federer won the 2017 Australian Open, but it only aired last month on NBC.
Grylls took Federer on an adventure through the Swiss Alps, where the 20-time Grand Slam champion tested his limits as he trekked through difficult terrain up and down mountains, ate a fish eyeball, and peed on camera to put out a fire.
In Cincinnati this week, Federer spoke about what that experience was like and how scared he really was hanging from a rope on the side of a mountain.
“It was a lot of fun, I loved it. Bear, I’ve met him before I did the show many times. He came to the World Tour Finals, he came to Wimbledon, I had dinner once with him and his lovely wife as well, with Mirka in the past, and I know his mom is like a huge fan of mine,” said Federer on Monday.
“Personally I grew up hiking, I love going for hikes with my children and this whole survival stuff is something I feel very connected to in Switzerland with the mountains, the lakes, the forest and all that stuff that we have and I thought it would be a perfect venue. The only problem was that it was snowy and it was cold and I don’t like cold and he said we’d have to do an over-nighter, and I said ‘I don’t know if I can do an over-nighter because I can’t get sick, I can’t get hurt, so I don’t know why I’m doing it’, and so it was all these funny things,” he said laughing.
Despite injuring his groin en route to the Australian Open title, Federer agreed to do the show.
“I had a great time. Of course I didn’t expect some of the things, like the fish eye and other things, and going down this big cliff, he didn’t tell me about it. I thought after the first hump that was it, then he told me to keep going, I looked down and go like ‘Oh my God, why am I even doing this?’ But it was great fun. I really enjoyed it,” said the Swiss.
It’s been a fun time in the press conference room so far this week with the players, and even coaches, providing us with some interesting one-liners. Here’s a sample of some of the exchanges that have taken place in the media centre.
Q. 138 miles per hour. I’m not sure on my math. Do you know what that translates to kilometres? It’s a math question.
Nick Kyrgios: I’m not a calculator.
Q. On-court coaching, you know you’re on live TV. Would you coach differently if you were behind closed doors?
Darren Cahill: I might swear a little more (smiling).
“It felt like my mind was lying to me. It felt like I wanted to win, but at the same time, it was not like a big deal for me, which I was pretty worried about. I don’t know why I felt like this.”
— Stefanos Tsitsipas after his opening round loss to David Goffin on Tuesday.
Q. I have really enjoyed watching you play this summer, both here in Cincinnati and Washington. You just talked about calming. At 31, do you feel calmer than ever on the tour during the hard court season?
Robin Haase: I don’t want to correct you, but I don’t know who you saw in Washington but that was not me.
Can you give me some of your thoughts on Daniel Nestor’s career and maybe thoughts on his legacy not only on tennis in Canada but also tennis as a whole?
Novak Djokovic: Well, I think his legacy would be greater if he played once with me, but he hasn’t (smiling).
As tennis federations around the world get set to vote on radical changes to the Davis Cup format in the ITF’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday in Orlando, several top players on the WTA circuit are surprised Fed Cup hasn’t been included in such grand plans from the start. Some are also relieved.
A sum of $3 billion is being promised over the next 25 years by investment group Kosmos, founded by Spain and Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique, and a complete overhaul of the 118-year competition looks set to take place.
The proposed plan will see the Davis Cup’s existing problematic format, stretched across the calendar year and played in all corners of the globe, condensed into a season-ending 18-nation event played at a single, neutral venue.
Around 120 delegates at the AGM will decide whether proposals by federation chief David Haggerty are to be given the go-ahead.
And while Haggerty has mentioned in the past that the ITF will start with the Davis Cup then turn its attention to its women’s equivalent, little to nothing has been said of the Fed Cup since discussions arose of such huge investments and changes.
World No. 5 Caroline Garcia feels the women are being treated like an afterthought.
“I think it’s weird that they are talking only about Davis Cup and they’re not talking at all about Fed Cup because at the end it’s kind of the same issue,” said the Frenchwoman.
“We have on the WTA and the ATP the same importance, if we can say. So it’s kind of weird they’re talking about Davis Cup and then they’ll see if they’ll do the same for the Fed Cup. So we’re a little bit like the last option.”
World No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 6 Petra Kvitova – who has won Fed Cup with the Czech Republic five times – are quite relieved the women’s competition is not on the ITF’s radar at the moment. There is strong opposition from many regarding the elimination of the home-and-away ties and both players feel strongly about the new proposed format.
“What do you think?” said Kvitova with a smile when asked if she’s grateful Fed Cup isn’t being discussed at the moment.
“We [Czech Republic] have many, many titles and I’m just happy how it is. Maybe I am surprised that Fed Cup is not in the talk but I’m probably glad for that as well.
“I just love to play in front of the crowd and playing a home tie is probably the best that we can have in this competition. It’s something really special for us and we have a great team and we’re still great team-mates as well so that’s very nice.”
Halep was clear in her views on the matter saying: “That’s a tough question but I will say my opinion. I like the historic thing and I like to be the same like always. Yes [I’m happy they’re not touching it right now].”
The debate for and against the proposed reforms has raged in recent weeks with some players, like Frenchman Lucas Pouille, saying they will boycott Davis Cup if the changes are voted through and many Australian legends describing the new plan as a death sentence for the competition, with Lleyton Hewitt dubbing it a “money-grab”.
A lot of politics is involved as well with the ATP and Tennis Australia looking to launch a new World Team Cup starting 2020, which would serve as direct competition to the Davis Cup.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber feels all this is hurting the sport, rather than adding to it.
“I was a little bit surprised [Fed Cup wasn’t mentioned] but at the end I think they are starting with the Davis Cup first then they’ll do the Fed Cup. I love to play Fed Cup and I hope that they will find a way to make all the discussion to stop and just play the game. Just playing, enjoying it and not making too much trouble around because that’s not fair for the sport as well,” said the German ex-world No. 1.
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza isn’t surprised about the exclusion of the women in the initial plans and believes something is in the works for the Fed Cup as well.
The two-time major champion admits the competition needs to be revamped but doesn’t have suggestions on how it can be improved.
“The traditional way is tricky. It’s tricky because with our calendar for sure it’s never the right moment but there are times where you feel like you have to go to the other part of the world and the next Monday you have a huge tournament to perform and how do you manage that? It doesn’t mean you don’t want to play for your country, all those things that you cannot make it. It’s very tough to play sometimes,” said Muguruza, who is a career 9-2 win-loss in Fed Cup rubbers.
“Yes it [the Fed Cup format] needs work but I understand it’s tough because I don’t see also how they can make it better. I know they’re thinking about it, I know they’re putting in the effort but it’s tough because someone is going to complain always.”
Former ATP No. 1 Andy Murray isn’t sure why Fed Cup wasn’t part of the initial plans but highlighted that the fragmented structure of power in tennis doesn’t help proper solutions for the collective.
“I think a lot of the kind of Davis Cup changes have been forced a little bit through what’s been happening with the ATP’s team event,” noted Murray.
“Tennis has issues because you have so many different bodies. It’s so difficult to sort of keep everybody happy. It would be a lot, lot easier if everyone worked together to come to, I don’t know, maybe a slightly better solution sometimes; whereas it feels like everyone is always looking out for their own interest as opposed to the interest of tennis as a whole.
“So I think if everyone did that, things would probably get done a bit quicker and it would probably be a bit more positive for the sport.”