Kyrgios expelled as big three reach last eight in Rome

May 18, 2019


ROME: Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return to Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili during their match at the Italian Open.—AP
ROME: Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return to Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili during their match at the Italian Open.—AP

ROME: An action-packed day at the Italian Open was marred by an astonishing outburst from Australian Nick Kyrgios, who was expelled from the tournament after going wild in the third set of his match against Casper Ruud on Thursday.

The incident overshadowed an outstanding day for Roger Federer, who reached the quarter-finals on his return to the tournament for the first time since 2016 with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) win over Borna Coric, having earlier beaten Joao Sousa.

Holder Rafael Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic also romped into the last eight with straight sets wins on a day featuring double bills for the top seeds after rain wiped out Wednesday’s play, with the Spaniard dropping only two games.

Kyrgios made an unsavoury exit from the tournament. Trailing 2-1 in the third set, the Australian slammed his racket into the ground, kicked a water bottle and tossed a chair towards the centre of the court before he shook hands with the umpire and his Norwegian opponent Ruud and walked out.

The outburst came after Kyrgios got a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. Having already been handed a violation earlier, it meant the umpire also handed Kyrgios a game penalty.

All that came after the 24-year-old ripped into Djokovic and Nadal in a podcast, having also misbehaved in his second-round match with Russian Daniil Medvedev on Tuesday.

Kyrgios was suspended by the ATP Tour for two months in 2016 for “tanking” a match and insulting fans during a loss at the Shanghai Masters.

“Very eventful day to say the least,” Kyrgios wrote on Instagram. “Emotions got the better of me and I just wanted to say that the atmosphere was crazy out there today, just super unfortunate that it had to end in a default. Sorry Roma, see you again, maybe.”

The 37-year-old fan favourite Federer rolled back the years to beat Sousa 6-3, 6-4 in the morning before staging a gritty comeback to edge Coric after saving two match points in the third-set tiebreak.

Coric missed forehands into the net on both of his match points in the tiebreaker. Federer converted his second match point when he forced Coric to hit a difficult, low volley into the net.

Federer will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who eliminated the Italians Jannik Sinner and Fabio Fognini.

Second seed Nadal blew away Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-0, 6-1 earlier in the day before breezing past Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-0 and next plays fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco as he targets a first title on clay this season before his French Open defence.

Verdasco spent nearly five hours on court over six sets to get by Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov and reach the last eight.

Djokovic spent a mere two hours and 10 minutes on the court in total. The top seed brushed aside Denis Shapovalov 6-1, 6-3 followed by a 6-3, 6-0 destruction of Philipp Kohlschreiber in the late match on Centre Court. The four-time Italian Open winner next plays Argentine seventh seed Juan Martin Del Potro for a place in the semi-finals.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the sixth seed, got past American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-4 and then Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany in three sets.

Women’s world number one Naomi Osaka of Japan also had to double up as she reached her maiden Rome quarter-final with a pair of 6-3, 6-3 wins, overpowering Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova before sweeping aside Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu.

Osaka was at risk of losing her world number one ranking to Simona Halep but the Romanian was knocked out by Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova losing 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. Halep’s defeat also guarantees Osaka’s top seeding at the French Open.

Czech second seed Petra Kvitova retired in her third round match against Greece’s Maria Sakkari while trailing 7-5, 5-7, 4-0 in the third set.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2019