THE curious case of Nick Kyrgios has befuddled once more as he crashed out of the Australian Open in self-destructive fashion.
The hot-headed Australian was seemingly cruising at one stage to a straight-sets victory over Italian veteran Andreas Seppi and a third straight round of 32 appearance at the Australian Open.
The 21-year-old Canberran had a match point in a manic fifth set, but suffered an inexplicable 1-6 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 6-2 10-8 second-round defeat in three hours and nine minutes.
Four-time grand slam champion Jim Courier, in commentary for Channel 7, summed up the night’s events perfectly: “It’s amazing how quickly it can go from so much fun for him to misery.”
In the middle of all the madness Kyrgios hit one of his trademark tweeners to kickstart a brief rise from the canvass when Seppi first tried to close out the contest on serve at 6-5.
Kyrgios could have been in that position himself if he capitalised on triple break point in the eighth game, his failure saw him vent to his team: “My body’s f—–, what do you want me to say?”
He was two sets to the good and leading 3-2 in the third set when the nonsensical chatter toward his player box began, about some gym work he deemed unnecessary between matches.
The fact it was expletive laden cost him a code violation.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 18, 2017
A second violation — plus a point penalty — followed when he angrily sent his Yonex racquet spiralling after giving up serve for the first time in the ninth game of the set.
Seppi quickly wrapped up the third set moments later and a second five-set contest between the combatants was on just 25 minutes later.
Kyrgios’ initial meltdown came just moments after the enigmatic Aussie had received words of advice from legend Lleyton Hewitt.
The polarising Aussie star had been cruising, winning the first two sets, but it all went pear-shaped as the Italian got on top in the third.
The first violation was for an audible obscenity and the second for throwing his racquet as he sat down after being broken by Seppi in the third set.
The match then took a dramatic turn as Seppi raced through the fourth set before the players slugged it out in a compelling final set.
Seemingly headed for defeat at 4-5 and with Seppi serving, Kyrgios played a bizarre ‘tweener’ (shot between the legs) despite comfortably having made it to the ball.
He won the point, leaving commentators, fans at Hisense Arena and viewers speechless and scratching their head at what they had just seen.
But Seppi proved the stronger, eventually breaking Kyrgios to take a 9-8 lead in the fifth set before holding to clinch an epic.
Earlier, Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt — fresh off saying how he believed Kyrgios had learned from his controversial Shanghai Masters tank — had believed the young Aussie was frustrated.
“He is still frustrated by what he is feeling in his legs, I think, feeling a bit heavy out there,” Hewitt said following the code violations.
“It is going to be interesting how he responds to this now, though.
“A smash of a racquet. That’s not a highlight for Nick, probably a low light I would say, but it was a highlight for Seppi, because it gave him the free point to start to serve out the third set.”
After claiming the third set, Seppi raced through the fourth set to level the match at two sets apiece.
A third code violation would have seen Kyrgios handed a game penalty and anything beyond that would be at the discretion of the officials.
Roger Rasheed, also commentating for Channel 7, was stunned by Kyrgios’ outbursts.
“It is our job to try and interpret what we are seeing and try and translate it for the viewers at home to try and understand and I’m scratching my head to try and figure out what’s going on — I promise you that. Only Nick knows,” Rasheed said.
“He seems to be trying to make a specific point to someone in his team that they messed up. Because no matter what the situation is, we are two hours and 11 minutes into play.”
Hewitt had earlier spoke candidly about Kyrgios’ blow up in Shanghai in October that left him rubbed out for the remainder of 2016.
Hewitt said Kyrgios had exhibited “great signs” in the lead up to the misdemeanour, but believed he had learned from it.
“He kind of let himself down in a lot of ways with that (the tank),” Hewitt said.
“There were so many positives leading into that, the way he played in Davis Cup, got around all the young Australian boys in the tie in Sydney that we won as well.
“I was probably seeing a lot of good signs within the group as it was.
“There’s always going to be some blips at times and some challenges, but I think it is a bit of a wake up call for Nick as well, which he probably needed.”
Hewitt said Kyrgios took advice, but was his own man.
“A lot of things he trusts himself, where he is serving on big points and backing himself, but it is more about keeping his concentration, keeping him calm out there,” he said.
“Little things sometimes do affect him and it is a matter of keeping his head cool and relaxed under pressure at certain times.”
Hewitt said the youngster had been a victim of the information age, but compared him to himself and another young firebrand, Jim Courier.
“In some ways, you know, we all make mistakes, and Nick, just like all of us, me in my younger days as well, we have all got to learn from that,” Hewitt said.
“But he is a young guy thrown into the spotlight.
“You know, Jim (Courier) and I were the same in that.
“But this day and age now, with all the new social media and technology, you can’t do anything without it being seen world wide within five to 10 seconds.”