Tennis

Nick Kyrgios’ Latest Clash With the Chair Umpire

Nick Kyrgios

In Australian tennis phenom Nick Kyrgios’ short career, he has put together a notorious record of outbursts and infractions. Kyrgios isn’t simply a colorful player that sportswriters spin up into something more, as sometimes happens to outspoken or emotional players. Now 24, his latest clashes with tennis officials and players only seem to be getting worse.

At the Citi Open, Kyrgios disrespected the umpire repeatedly, including throwing a water bottle at his chair hard enough that the label ripped off and stuck to it. He won the match anyway, but this is only the latest in an increasingly worrying and visible string of incidents that undermine the world #52 ranked tennis player’s career.

Outbursts at Wimbledon culminated in a major loss

His on-court tantrums are paired with a noted lack of effort off the court, including losing his career tiebreaker match against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon 2019.

During the losing match, a frustrated Kyrgios at one point looked as though he lost interest in any attempt at performing to professional standards. He took an aggressive serve at Nadal that, unbelievably, he later openly declared was an intentional attempt to hit Nadal in the chest. While Kyrgios vented at a press conference, Nadal moved on to prepare for what proved to be a historic finals matchup.

Previous Wimbledon champion Pat Cash took to Twitter to note that the match was “tense” and praise Nadal for focusing on his play. Kyrgios clearly took this as a slight, replying with the insulting hashtag “#potato”.

One could write off this sort of behavior as a reaction to the pressures of competing at the historic, high-stakes Wimbledon tournament. With time to cool off, many top competitors in any sport often find themselves gaining perspective and deciding to change behaviors that affect their career. Yet Kyrgios’ outbursts have only become more frequent throughout the Citi Open.

No handshake breaks decorum at the Citi Open

If the rise of young future star Coco Gauff is the big positive story coming out of the Citi Open, the continued antics of Kyrgios serve as the other side of that particular coin.

After a 6-4, 7-6 victory over Gilles Simon in the first round, Kyrgios refused to shake hands with umpire Fergus Murphy. He explained this later as a reaction to being ignored when requesting a challenge on a serve. Not one to let a simple explanation do the work for him, he threw in the comment that Murphy is “a potato with arms and legs”.

It appears that he has a go-to insult for people he has issues within tennis. And he was just getting started.

Nick Kyrgios berates umpire, throws a water bottle

Nick Kyrgios won two straight sets against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka at last week’s Citi Open. The initial decisive 6-2 set turned to a more contentious 7-5 set that pushed Kyrgios towards the sorts of frustrated outbursts tennis fans expect to see from him under the slightest pressure.

On the sideline, Kyrgios mumbled expletives to himself before he threw his water bottle against the umpire’s chair. Despite going for a full windup and clearly throwing with intention, for some reason he dropped the glib approach he took with the Nadal incident. This time, incredibly, he claimed that the bottle slipped out of his hand.

While there is no evidence to support it, perhaps this type of behavior is why Kyrgios didn’t get the benefit of the doubt when asking for a challenge in his earlier match. While his strong performance in Washington at the Citi Open ultimately wasn’t affected, could the same be said for the future?

In a sport where mere millimeters of space can end up deciding your tournament fate, as well as one where serious conditioning is required to keep up with the endurance of top players, it is well past time for Nick Kyrgios to start taking his profession a bit more seriously.