AUSTRALIAN showman Nick Kyrgios smashed away the claim that he stopped trying during a drama-packed defeat at Wimbledon.
TThe 20-year-old appeared to give up for a game early in the second set of his 7-5 6-1 6-7 (7/9) 7-6 (8/6) fourth-round loss to Richard Gasquet, and could face punishment from the International Tennis Federation.
“If they decide to fine me, they can fine me,” he said.
In what looked to most impartial observers to be an act of immature rebellion, Kyrgios let two serves slide by him for aces without even swinging his racquet. He meekly fed back two further Gasquet serves into the net.
But he rejected the theory that he was not giving it his best effort.
“I kept playing,” he said. “He hit a serve past me as an ace. That’s too good. That’s too good.”
Mate, Rafa and stuff play 30 seconds in between points every time and all I’m doing is putting my sock back on.”Nick Kyrgios
When it was suggested he remained rooted to the spot, Kyrgios said: “I did move.”
A code violation for an “audible obscenity” seemed to spark petulance from Kyrgios, when British umpire James Keothavong warned him over his coarse language.
Kyrgios was booed by hundreds of fans who felt short-changed by a perceived lack of effort, and it barely improved as the set slipped away in just 24 minutes.
“There was a lot of ups and downs,” Kyrgios said. “Obviously it was a tough, tough time, especially when he’s not missing any balls.”
Kyrgios had two set points in the fourth, but Gasquet edged home by winning the final four points of the tie-break.
The Australian was heard swearing, saying “external bull****”, which he later said referred to problems off the court that he did not detail.
“There’s a lot of things going on at the moment that aren’t focusing on actual tennis,” Kyrgios said. “You don’t need to know about them.” The ITF is bound to examine how Kyrgios played the second set.
ITF rules state: “A player shall use his best efforts to win a match when competing in a Grand Slam tournament. Violation of this section shall subject a player to a fine up to 20,000 US dollars (£12,860) for each violation.”
Additionally, the rules state: “In circumstances that are flagrant and particularly injurious to the success of a tournament, or are singularly egregious, a single violation…shall also constitute the major offence of ‘aggravated behaviour’ and shall be subject to the additional penalties hereinafter set forth therefor.”
That allows the ITF to impose a penalty of $250,000 (£160,000).
Kyrgios dismissed the suggestion he is a tennis bad boy, saying: “Just because I show emotion out on the court, I’m bad. So, whatever.”
He was not the only one whose behaviour was up for question. Gasquet smashed his racquet after the third set, crunching it into the grass and then thrashing it against his chair after letting two match points slip, having squandered nine when losing to Kyrgios in the second round last year.
But the Frenchman was relatively well behaved, while Kyrgios flounced out despite the presence in the crowd of the man in a Batman T-shirt whose advice he claimed was instrumental in victory last week on the same court against Milos Raonic.
“Come on Nick, Batman’s here,” the fan shouted out.
The third set saw Kyrgios and Keothavong – brother of former British number one Anne Keothavong – engage in a bizarre exchange over the Australian adjusting his kit.
“I’m changing my socks,” Kyrgios explained to Keothavong at the changeover following the third game. “I’ve taken one pair off. I’ve got two on and I’m taking one pair off.”
The combustible Canberra man added: “If you’re going to get angry with me for that, that’s another level. Mate, Rafa (Rafael Nadal) and stuff play 30 seconds in between points every time and all I’m doing is putting my sock back on.”
Referring to Gasquet, Kyrgios said: “I’m sure he’ll understand.
“Do you wanna ask him?”
Kyrgios then shouted from his chair to Gasquet on court: “Richard, I’m just changing my socks.”
As Gasquet raised no objections, Kyrgios added: “Yeah, he’s fine…unbelievable.”