Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon: Oh what a circus! Even when pleading innocence you can't take your eyes off him
Nick Kyrgios’ rivals for the big Saturday night TV audience were the Rolling Stones whose notoriety was cooked up by a crafty manager colluding with a panting press, resulting in the immortal headline: "Lock up your daughters!"
What should be the slogan for the wild man of tennis? Maybe: “Lock up everyone who regards Wimbledon as the supreme, straw-boatered, strawbs-and-cream expression of English politeness and civility!”
A bit clunky, perhaps, but there will be many at the All England Club and among its supporters of a certain age who would have been appalled by Kyrgios’ latest semi-controlled explosion of a match.
But for those with an eye on the box-office as well as the younger fans who naturally gravitate towards a rebel, like John McEnroe was for the previous generation, the question yesterday was: “When’s he playing next?”
What used to be Sacred Sunday - the day of rest - was still burbling in the aftershock of the bad-tempered clash between Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas and “Nasty Nick”, which the Australian won 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6.
It was a match pock-marked with arguments, penalty points and balls thrashed into the stands in anger - though this time Tsitsipas was the main offender. And afterwards, though interviewed separately, the pair continued their battle.
Tsitsipas, who went first, complained that Kyrgios’ “constant talking, constant complaining” turned the match into a “circus” and accused his “evil” opponent of bullying. “That’s what he does, he bullies opponents. He was probably a bully at school. I don’t like bullies.”
The world No.4 chastised himself for losing his rag and letting rip in the direction of spectators but called for a crackdown on all the noises-off. “I wish we could all come together and put a rule in place,” he said.
Kyrgios bit back. Bullying, what bullying? “He was the one hitting balls at me, the one that hit a spectator, the one smacked out of the stadium.” He also deflected the “circus” jibe. “That was all him,” said SW19’s Public Enemy No.1.
All the amateur psychoanalysts around these parts - and there are many - would contend that Kyrgios has “issues”. No, no, that’s Tsitsipas, he said. “Serious issues. I’m good in the locker-room. I’ve got many friends, just to let you know. I’m actually one of the most-liked. He’s not liked. Let’s just put that there.”
Far from done, he questioned Tsitsipas’ resolve compared with his own, called his rival “soft”, adding: “When I'm back home and you see my everyday and who I'm competing with on the basketball court, these guys are dogs.”
Kyrgios was asked if he thought everyone was against him. “I don't really care,” he said. “They have to watch me play fourth round of Wimbledon. Got a pretty nice paycheck this week as well.”
First thing yesterday, an English setter and a fox red Labrador, both bearing “Explosives search” on their harnesses, patrolled the grounds - albeit 11 hours too late. Lest we forget, the incendiary Aussie is playing stupendous tennis. He’s back in action on Monday.
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