The performances of Nick Kyrgios – on and off the court – have been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the first week here, the Australian thrilling the crowds with his swashbuckling style. Unfortunately, though, they will have to wait until next year to see more after the 26-year-old was forced to quit two sets into his third-round match with Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.
Kyrgios had not played between the Australian Open and arriving for Wimbledon, choosing to stay away from the bubbles and the tournaments with few or no fans because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Perhaps inevitably, his lack of preparation came back to haunt him as he retired with an abdominal injury, having won the first set 6-2 before losing the second 6-1. This was not the Kyrgios who at times has looked uninterested in tennis and who has cut a controversial figure with some of his on-court antics. Here he tried, hard, and had his body not given out, he might have gone on to do something truly special.
“I got here, I did what I could. I battled through,” he said. “My body just wasn’t where it needed to be to continue to play at this level and beat these quality players. He’s 15 in the world. I’m making the guy look pretty average in the first set and I haven’t played a tournament in six months. So my game is there. My confidence is high as ever. I was devastated. I’m enjoying myself. Going from the bad boy of tennis, to now one of the crowd favourites. I knew they wanted me to keep playing. I tried to give everything I absolutely could.”
The other bad news was that Kyrgios would have to tell Venus Williams he could not continue with their mixed doubles partnership that was also enthralling the crowds at the All England Club. “It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
Auger-Aliassime is into the fourth round for the first time, on his second visit here, and he will now play the No 4 seed, Alexander Zverev, who came through 6-7, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 against the American Taylor Fritz, who had knee surgery last month. On 3 June, Fritz left the French Open in a wheelchair after injuring a knee in his second-round match. Two days later he had an operation. On his remarkable comeback at SW19 the 23-year-old beat his fellow Americans Brandon Nakashima and Steve Johnson.
The men’s No 2 seed Daniil Medvedev came from two sets down to beat Marin Cilic. The Russian battled back to claim a 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory and reach the fourth round at SW19 for the first time.
Matteo Berrettini, seeded seven, came through in straight sets against Aljaz Bedene but there was a controversial end to the match involving Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia – also the girlfriend of Berrettini – and the former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian took an injury timeout when trailing 4-0 in the final set, seemingly for an abdominal injury, but Tomljanovic questioned whether it was genuine.
Ostapenko broke back when she returned but Tomljanovic clinched victory nevertheless, only to then confront Ostapenko at the handshake, to which the Latvian took offence, saying: “Your behaviour was terrible, you have zero respect.”
The argument spilled over into their press conferences, with Ostapenko going further, saying: “I had an injury. If I’d been even 50% today I would have beaten her.”
Tomljanovic, who will play Britain’s Emma Raducanu next, hit back. “Game-wise, there was nothing wrong with her,” she said. “I have played her. I know when someone is injured and when they’re not. Then to top it all off, for her to call me disrespectful at the end of the match is just, at that point, it’s laughable.
“It’s disgraceful behaviour from someone that is a slam champion, because kids look at her and, what, they see that? I’m sorry, if she was injured, she could have gone about it in a way better way. Whatever she says, she can say. But this is my opinion on it.”
The French Open champion, Barbora Krejcikova, came through an epic with another Latvian, beating Anastasia Sevastova 7-6, 3-6, 7-5 while another Czech, Karolina Muchova, beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3. Coco Gauff, the 17-year-old American, continues to look mightily impressive, her 6-3, 6-3 win over Kaja Juvan of Slovenia setting up a clash with the former champion Angelique Kerber.
The top seed Ashleigh Barty beat Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 7-5 on Centre Court after Siniakova posed a resolute challenge while failing to find answers to the Australian’s immaculate sliced returns and spin.