LONDON – There was a bit of everything in the astonishing match between Félix Auger-Aliassime and Nick Kyrgios Thursday.
There even was Kyrgios doing fake free-throws the length of the court with tennis balls. They arrived at the ball girls on one bounce.
His aim couldn’t have been better if he’d run over and placed the ball tehre.
And for a couple of sets, the Aussie was all in. He was playing great tennis and giving Auger-Aliassime no rhythm as the Canadian teenager just tried to hang in there.
It turned on the second point of the third set, when Kyrgios had a bad slip and fall.
It appeared (at least from the rather intimate-looking massages he got on back-to-back changeovers), to be his adductor.
After that, Kyrgios basically as playing for a breaker. His serve velocity was way down, but he didn’t put up much of a fight in Auger-Aliassime’s service games.
Here are some of the highlights.
All along, Kyrgios was chuntering. A courtside experience for a Kyrgios match is exponentially better than listening to television commentary.
“I can’t split-step right now. I could barely return his serve before. And now, what hope do I have?” – Kyrgios, to himself.
He wasn’t happy with the line calls, although he had a better sense of humor about it Thursday than he did during his first-round match.
Kyrgios to Keothavong: “What that the latest call you’ve ever heard?”
Keothavong: “It was a late one, yes.”
Intimate court, near the action
The fans in the corner to the umpire’s left, on the deuce side, had to scatter often when the two players served wide (you might well have caught your Tennis.Life correspondent on the streams as a few of them went in my direction, too).
At one point – 4-4 in the third set – a woman got hit with one .
It was on the bounce – of course. She was a little rattled. And so she threw the ball back onto the court before Kyrgios’s second serve.
“Smart. Very smart,” said Kyrgios, who didn’t think it was too smart.
“I’m SORRY!” replied the woman, who wasn’t that sorry.
There were some special guests to watch this one.
A sleepy-looking Tommy Paul (either he’d just had a nap, or he needed one. But he did have a Tootsie Roll supply). Frances Tiafoe, a good friend of Kyrgios’s, was there with his girlfriend Ayan Broomfield (who plays tennis at UCLA and, as it happens, is Canadian).
Thanasi Kokkinakis also arrived.
Racket toss could have been dangerous
In the end, the racket that Kyrgios tossed up after the loss didn’t appear as though it was going to fly too far – and then, suddenly, it flew right over the stands and onto a concourse.
We went out there to interview witnesses, as it were. And the stewards were saying they were pretty shocked to look up and see a racket flying through the air.
They thought it might have come from the stadium court behind them. Luckily, no one was hit by it. But the stewards pointed out that had it been 20 minutes earlier, that concourse was absolutely packed with people.
At this point, of course, everyone who had a ticket was crammed into the stadium court to watch Andy Murray’s return to competitive tennis.