Painful first-round US Open exit for Nick Kyrgios

There are times when Nick Kyrgios has been his own worst enemy. There have been times when he has imploded. Or tanked. Or both.

Nick Kyrgios grimaces in pain from a shoulder injury during his defeat by compatriot John Millman. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Nick Kyrgios grimaces in pain from a shoulder injury during his defeat by compatriot John Millman. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

But yesterday, he tried. And yesterday, his body let him down yet again. He was beaten 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the US Open by John Millman, his fellow Australian and a man who is slowly inching his way back from a 
seven-and-a-half month lay-off following groin surgery. Last year, Millman was the world No 60; this week he is No 235. This, then, was a match in which 14th seed Kyrgios was the overwhelming favourite.

To give Kyrgios even more cause for hope, the hip injury that had forced him out of his first round matches at Wimbledon and Queen’s Club seemed to have healed; the shoulder issue that had caused him to pull out of his opening match in Washington was apparently fixed – and then he went to hit a serve at a set apiece with Millman and his right arm suddenly went numb.

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For a set, he had been trying to keep his frustrations under wraps as Millman pulled him into protracted rallies. Then, for a set, he had bossed matters with his thumping serve and greater power. And then his shoulder gave out and his arm went dead. He could not believe it.

“I’m playing fine,” he intoned to the trainer as the medic worked on his arm and shoulder. “Then literally one serve and the arm’s dead and numb. One serve – like bang – and I lost power in my arm.

“I don’t know what to do. I really don’t. I was feeling good. I finally have a good week last week, I have a tough match now, another Aussie and this happens in the middle of the third set. It’s rough, man.”

Realising that there was little to be done to help, Kyrgios kept on playing but he knew he did not stand a chance. Screaming at his arm in exasperation – and using a rude word as he did so – he earned himself a code violation. Smashing his racket at the end of the third set brought him a point penalty (he very pointedly asked for the twisted frame to be brought to him at the end of the match and took it away with him) but it did not matter what he did – he knew there could only be one outcome.

Millman, pleased to have won his first match in New York, expressed sympathy for his countryman.

“I know Nick’s shoulder deteriorated as the match went on,” Millman said. “It is a 
victory but it feels hollow. Nick is great sport on the court and a good guy off it. I feel for him, I really do.” Kyrgios, meanwhile, was inconsolable. He had hired Sebastien Grosjean as his coach for the duration of the Open but he did not think the partnership should 

“I’m not good enough for him,” Kyrgios said bluntly. “He’s very dedicated. He’s an unbelievable coach. He 
probably deserves a player that is probably more dedicated to the game than I am. He deserves a better athlete than me.

“I’m not dedicated to the game at all. He’s helped me a lot, especially with the training, in training sessions.

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“There are players out there that are more dedicated, that want to get better, that strive to get better every day, the one-percenters. I’m not that guy.”

The saddest part of the situation was that despite not being a ‘one-percenter’, these two weeks in New York could have been made for Kyrgios.

Five of the world’s top 11 are missing through injury and even Roger Federer, who was supposed to be the Australian’s fourth round opponent, has a dodgy back. This year’s draw is primed and ready for anyone with talent and ambition to make a mark. Anyone but Kyrgios, that is.