Nick Kyrgios said he wanted to make up for his notorious meltdown last year in Shanghai as he beat Mischa Zverev in the second round of the China Open on Wednesday.
A year ago the supremely talented but combustible Kyrgios was suspended for his petulant behaviour at the Shanghai Masters, where he swore and argued with the crowd and appeared to give away points in caving in to the German.
The enigmatic Australian, seeded eighth on Beijing’s outdoor hard courts this year, smashed his racquet on the floor in anger, bending the head in half, when he conceded the opening set on Wednesday.
That earned the world number 19 a warning from the umpire and raised the spectre of one year ago.
But the 22-year-old returned for the second set with renewed determination and errors began creeping into Zverev’s game.
Zverev, ranked 27 in the world and the older brother of rising star Alexander (Sascha), surrendered his first service game of the second set and Kyrgios was never in trouble after that, surging into the next round 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
During one changeover the Australian appeared so relaxed that he sat back on his chair, arms behind his head, and sang along with a pop hit being played over the stadium loudspeakers.
“Nothing really, just chilling out,” Kyrgios, whose suspect temperament sometimes outdoes his talent, said afterwards when asked about his demeanour during the match.
Nick Kyrgios at changeover 😂🎤 pic.twitter.com/mMfBnGpQuq
— Rena (@_irenka23_) October 4, 2017
Kyrgios said facing Zverev a year after Shanghai, and again in China, was the perfect opportunity to show how far he has come.
“Obviously didn’t have a great one last year, obviously got suspended after that,” he said.
“I just wanted to go out there today and kind of redeem myself a little bit from last year,” he said, adding: “I just wanted to prove to myself how much I have improved.”
Kyrgios, one of the most colourful characters in tennis, added: “I knew it was going to be tough and I got broken early in the first.
“Then I kind of knew I had to loosen up and find my rhythm a little bit.”
The Australian star was unsure how well he’d be up for this Asian swing, having been on the road for many weeks in a row, and following a gruelling stretch that included tournaments in Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati, New York, Davis Cup in Belgium and Laver Cup in Prague.
Speaking to reporters in Prague less than two weeks ago, Kyrgios discussed his outlook ahead of the Asian tournaments.
“It’s a tough one. I obviously haven’t had the greatest memories in Asia, last year I had a terrible end to the season but I don’t know. I’ve been on the road now for a while, I haven’t been home in a long time, it’s draining,” said the Canberra-native.
“But I knew that Davis Cup and Laver Cup, they were always in the back of my mind — obviously with Davis Cup at the top, and I knew that this (Laver Cup) was going to be an exciting event, I was looking forward to it a lot. I don’t know if I can tell you I’m looking forward to Beijing and Shanghai honestly.
“Obviously I’m going to go and play but it’s question marks everywhere there.”
Kyrgios is currently No. 20 in the Race to London rankings, but his position is virtually 16 considering Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori are all out for the rest of the season and are ahead of him in the standings.
Only the top-eight get to feature in the season finale in London and Kyrgios mathematically still has a chance to make it.
The Aussie next faces qualifier Steve Darcis in the Beijing quarter-finals in a rematch of their recent Davis Cup rubber, which Kyrgios won in five sets in Brussels.
If Kyrgios wins Beijing, he could virtually rocket up to be among the top 10 contenders for the ATP World Tour Finals.
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