Australian Open: Nick Kyrgios courts controversy, races into third round after short battle

Getting shorty: Australia’s Nick Kyrgios lets fly in his match against Pablo Cuevas. Photo: Joe Armao Australian Nick Kyrgios playing against Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas on Hisense arena. Australian Open 2016. 20th January 2016 The Age news Fairfaxmedia Picture by Photo: Joe Armao


Inbetweener: Nick Kyrgios attempts a trick shot against Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas. Photo: Joe Armao

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In his own words, Nick Kyrgios’ blistering straight sets win over Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas was an “absolute circus”, but contenders for this year’s Australian Open will be taking the talented Australian very seriously after he raged into the third round on Wednesday night.

In front of a packed house at Hisense Arena, Kyrgios sent a message to the rest of the tournament with an impressive 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) demolition job over Cuevas but, as always with Kyrgios, there was drama – this time a “wardrobe malfunction”.

The 20-year-old was clearly agitated during the first 1 and ½ sets of his match, angry that a new pair of his Nike brand shorts were apparently too small and needed to be changed.

He eventually did change the shorts late in the second set, from white to black, and it turned out to be a crucial moment in the match.

Even though he won the first set, Kyrgios was clearly riled as he went down 3-4 in the second set and called for a “toilet break”, or effectively a wardrobe change, to swap into some different shorts.

Once he emerged from the tunnel – back in black, so to speak – Kyrgios quickly regained control, taking the second set and eventually the match, although he had to go through a tie-breaker in the third set to seal the deal.

Asked about the shorts during his TV interview after the match, Kyrgios said he did not want to discuss what happened other than to say “it was an absolute circus”, and he was no more forthcoming with details in the media conference an hour later.

“It was just a bit of a mix up before the match. I guess it will be fixed by the next round,” he said.

Kyrgios was asked whether the short controversy actually worked for him in the first set – for it appeared that “playing angry” was bringing out some spectacular tennis.

“It is probably not the best thing, playing too angry. It does expend a lot of energy and, in best-of-five tennis, you want to try to keep it all in the tank, if you can,” he said.

Cuevas queried the timing of the break with the chair umpire at the time, believing that it should have come at the end of the second set.

“I thought it was a bit strange, the time he picked to do that. But it was okay,” Cuevas told a translator, in his post-match media conference, when asked about the incident.

In a typically entertaining display, Kyrgios also required a medical timeout in the third set to receive treatment on his right elbow.

However the No.29 seed said “everything is fine”, as he looks ahead to a third-round match up against No.6 seed Tomas Berdych.

“It was just a little bit of pain, nothing to be too concerned about,” Kyrgios told Channel Seven.

On the upcoming match with Berdych, Kyrgios said he expected the atmosphere to be “crazy”.

“They all love Berdych as well, he’s got a massive fan base. He is one of the greatest players playing right now so it’s going to be a really good match.”

Kyrgios said he was moving as well as he ever has going into the blockbuster showdown.

“I feel that’s the biggest part of my game that’s improved from last year,” he said.

“I feel that when I’m in the backcourt in a rally, there’s not many balls that can get past me.

“It helps my game so much. It feels like I don’t have to be so aggressive – I don’t feel like I have to force so much, I can sit back a bit.”

The drama on Wednesday night began before for the match did, as the already hyperactive Kyrgios seemed annoyed by the miss-fitting shorts right from the outset and could not let the issue go.

On numerous occasions he had verbal exchanges with his team at courtside, as his brother tried to calm him down and get his mind on the job.

Kyrgios also let his frustrations out at the umpire in the early going, but for the most part, the controversy did not disrupt his play – in the first set at least – as he slammed down a half-dozen 200km aces and a series of brutal winners to take the opener 6-4 and set the tone for a highly-charged display.

It was a typical roller-coaster performance, though, with his emotions hitting extreme highs and lows.

One second he was sharing a joke with the crowd, and the next he was throwing his towel into the ground at a change of ends late in the third set and screaming at himself for letting his advantage slip.

Earlier in the day he had been slapped with a $US3000 fine for “audible obscenities” in his first round victory against Pablo Correno Busta on Monday.

In his second round match, he constantly played at the edge.

He toyed with Cuevas, faking drop shots and, at times, halting his charge to the net completely and playing shots as if he were on slow motion replay.

Sometimes he went too far and it cost him. He dropped a game on serve late in the third set and was facing two set points at 4-5 down.

But, true to form, he got out of that predicament by sending down a 200km second serve, among other pieces of low-percentage by highly-effective play.

And, despite all his antics, his actual tennis was superb as Kyrgios used his height and power advantage to rush through his veteran, one-dimensional opponent, who played from deep in the backcourt far too often.