Nick Kyrgios obliterated his racquet, got embroiled in another officiating bust-up and was on the verge of giving up – yet still managed to battle through to perhaps his best win of the year against Stefanos Tsitsipas on the Halle grass.
The ever-combustible but always-engrossing Australian came from a set down to knock out the second seed 5-7 6-2 6-4 in the traditional pre-Wimbledon tournament in Germany on Wednesday.
It was a brilliant encounter, decorated by some of the Australian wildcard’s most dazzling pyrotechnics on the grass-court surface he thrives upon but also featuring familiar moments when he was seemingly on the verge of meltdown.
He admitted afterwards that he’d been close to giving up but his courtside team helped him through to a quarter-final date with sixth-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.
After losing an opening set which world No.6 Tsitsipas controlled, Kyrgios ended up smashing his racquet to smithereens, repeatedly hammering it against the side of his courtside bench.
He received a code violation and, when leading 2-0 in the second set, got involved in another heated argument after being penalised for a time violation when receiving serve.
After being judged by the chair umpire Timo Janzen to have kept the server Tsitsipas waiting, Kyrgios protested, sat down and demanded the supervisor be called before he eventually continued.
He told the umpire that the penalty was ridiculous as he was one of the fastest players in the world.
In previous matches this year, similar wars have seen the Australian go on to lose his cool, his focus and then the match.
But on this occasion, the 27-year-old’s brilliance came to the forefront instead, as he regained his focus to earn his 24th victory over a top-10 player – a remarkable statistic for a man still to make the top-10 himself.
His victory came with some astonishing tracer forehands and with the help of one outlandish recovery forehand, played from behind his own back, which seemed to derail Tsitsipas.
Asked how he’d managed to win in a post-match courtside interview, Kyrgios said: “My team. My girlfriend, my physio, my best friend, my manager, they just kept me in it, got me over the line.
“At times, I felt like giving up, frustrated, and Stef was rolling but, I don’t know, they somehow dug me out of a hole.”
Kyrgios felt his time warning had been for show.
“Umpires, I don’t think they understand… Everyone here in Halle was looking forward to seeing me and Stef play, they (umpires) just want to be relevant. The match was going fine, the crowd was enjoying it – it was completely unnecessary.”
Asked if he’d found it hard to stay focused, Kyrgios shrugged: “Not really. As you can see from the scoreboard, I focused pretty well. Lost the first set, and regained my focus and got it done.”
Only last week, Kyrgios had been left raging, going out in a blaze of anger after being subject to racial abuse during a match in Stuttgart.
He got irritated early on at his latest German venue too when a mobile phone in the crowd went off as early as the third game and he demanded Janzen keep a check on disturbances.
This time, though, all ended with sweetness and light as Kyrgios ended up handing the racquet he’d mangled to a fan at courtside.
He next plays Carreno Busta, who earned an excellent win over rising American Sebastian Korda 6-4 0-6 6-3.
Defending champion Ugo Humbert got knocked out by Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 while world No.1 and top seed Daniil Medvedev advanced by beating David Goffin 6-3 6-2.