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No time for niceties with fiery Nick

Michael Beattie at Flushing Meadows
August 26, 2014
Nick Kyrgios went through 26 aces, 68 winners, 57 unforced errors, three code violations and a game penalty on his way to victory against Mikhail Youzhny © Getty Images

Shortly before the US Open began, Roger Federer accepted the blame for toning down the culture of men's tennis. The 17-time grand slam champion has redefined humble, praising opponents and apparently surprising himself with his success over the years. His approach in public even became the calling card of his parody Twitter account.

"Sometimes I feel like it's gotten to be too much," he told Sports Illustrated. "Like everybody has leaned toward, 'I'm not the favorite. The other guy played great'. It's always the same thing from everybody. I miss the feistiness … I like the guys who are a bit cocky or confident. It's important to be that way as well."

Well, Roger, your prayers have been answered, in the form of a ball-bashing, earring-toting, feisty Aussie teen with the weapons to take down grand slam champions.

Ladies and gentlemen, Nick Kyrgios.

Name sound familiar? It should: he's the 19-year-old who stunned Rafael Nadal and the Wimbledon faithful with a swashbuckling display that dumped the former world No.1 out in the fourth round. He was also credited with the shot of the tournament - a forward-facing through-the-legs forehand winner that stopped the Spaniard in his tracks.

Kyrgios was the first debutant to reach the quarter-finals in a decade, where he took a set off Milos Raonic before finally running out of steam. By that time, his results, pink headphones, gold chains and brief run-in with rapper Drake had turned him into an overnight sensation in the Twittersphere.

On court he's a terror, with a big serve, great hands and a taste for the audacious. He's also garnering a reputation as a serious hot-head, complete with balls knocked out of the park, rackets sent to the trauma ward and some pretty spectacular outbursts. One way or the other, you can't take your eyes off him.

Kyrgios' US Open first-round victory over Mikhail Youzhny was a good example. The No.21 seed, twice a semi-finalist in New York, found himself on the receiving end of the Kyrgios blunderbuss for the first two sets as the Aussie blasted the ball past him over and again - not always accurately - to lead 7-5 7-6(4).

When Youzhny found a foothold early in the third set, however, the match got interesting. The Russian broke to lead 3-2, and Kyrgios couldn't help but turn the air a little blue. Having been warned for blasting a ball out of Court 17 earlier in the match, he was handed a point penalty at the start of the sixth game. Seething, he lost the set 6-2.

Kyrgios was in dangerous territory: a couple of indiscretions from defaulting, allowing a canny opponent - and one who knows a thing or two about meltdowns himself - to work his way into the match. With Youzhny leading early in the fourth, Kyrgios let rip once more with an F-bomb that travelled at least as far as the ball he'd ejected earlier. The result? A code violation, game penalty and the score extended to three-one in favour of Youzhny.

So how did Kyrgios follow that up? In the words of Rocky Balboa's cornerman Paulie, "he ain't getting killed, he's getting mad!" Four unreturnable serves followed, three of them aces; soon after, a break; and, in the resulting tie-break, a lob so delicate it looked like he was trying to land it on a dime. Another blockbuster forehand and he was 5-0 up in the tie-break.

With 26 aces, 68 winners, 57 unforced errors, three code violations and a game penalty, Kyrgios wrapped up his first US Open main draw victory 7-5 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(1). On the ESPN broadcast in the US, Chris Fowler said, "Most players never even see that penalty."

"I've seen it," John McEnroe replied.

So, the moral of the tale: a little anger can go a long way. And it's fun to watch. Right, Roger?

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