NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nick Kyrgios delivered heaps of brilliant shotmaking and a sprinkle of controversy in a 6-3 7-6(1) 6-4 win over American Steve Johnson on Tuesday that put the Australian into the second round of the U.S. Open.
Kyrgios was laser focused for the first half of the match as he deployed a lethal mix of monster serves, stinging forehands and smart net play but nearly unraveled when he got agitated over a fan who interrupted his ball toss.
The Australian 28th seed was serving at 4-4 in the second set when a woman trying to get to her seat entered his line of sight during his serve, at which point an annoyed Kyrgios asked aloud if she was alright.
Kyrgios then looked to the chair umpire who said he could not have prevented the interruption because he did not see it since he was focused on the players.
But a clearly perturbed Kyrgios was not happy with that explanation and following a verbal exchange was given a code violation warning for an audible obscenity.
After Kyrgios, who is known for his short temper, held serve to go 5-4 up he resumed his back-and-forth with the umpire on the changeover at which point a clearly annoyed Johnson asked his opponent when he was going to “play fucking tennis”.
Kyrgios, who has repeatedly gotten in trouble for on-court actions and is known for his short temper, did not let the incident affect his sublime play as he settled right back down to business.
The Australian blitzed Johnson in the second set tiebreak where he showed his lighter side when he broke into a little dance after chasing down a dropshot he sent back for a brilliant crosscourt winner and a commanding 6-0 cushion.
“It was pretty clean,” Kyrgios said of the tiebreak. “I knew it was an important set. If he got that set the match could have been different and we’d still be playing right now.”
Johnson, who was being thoroughly outplayed, did manage to finally earn his first break to get to within 3-1 in the third set but Kyrgios relied on his massive serve to carry him over the finish line.
Kyrgios was all business from the outset and when he held at love in his first service game for 1-1, he soaked up the first of many “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” chants inside Louis Armstrong Stadium on the night.
The Australian controlled the match with his serve as he won 88% of his first serve points and saved three of the four break points he faced.
Up next for Kyrgios will be Frenchman Antoine Hoang, who beat Argentine Leonardo Mayer earlier on Tuesday.