Hot head, pot head and the rumbling of beer. It appeals to the kind of vibrant New York scene that Nick Kyrgios usually thrives on on the court. But things got unpredictable when he had the racket in hand, as the Australian proved again at the U.S. Open on Wednesday before finding his form in the evening.
Wimbledon finalists struggle for a long time in 7-6, (7-3) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Benjamin Bonzi at Louis Armstrong Stadium your best state. It was more due to the grit and toughness of his poker-faced opponents, who kept his emotions in check when the Aussie had his temper tantrums.
“I really got hung up on a thread. He was at an unbelievable level today,” Kyrgios said. “I wasn’t expecting an absolute way. I played some very risky tennis in the fourth set to get through.”
In a surreal moment, the Canberra man complained to referee Jaume Campistol that the smell of marijuana wafted onto the pitch as his opponents raised the pressure late in the second set. The Aussie was right, too, because the weeds on the side of the pitch were easy to smell. At one point, Campistol asked fans not to smoke around a stadium with a strong party atmosphere.
Kyrgios said he suffers from asthma and noticed the smoke could throw him off balance. “People don’t know [it but] I have severe asthma,” he said. “When I run from side to side, I have trouble breathing, [so it is] Probably not something I want to breathe between two o’clock. “
The Louis Armstrong Stadium is about 2 kilometers from where the iconic musician whose name is known for the stadium lived for the last 28 years of his life, a departure from the norm in tennis. Kyrgios is often accused of creating a circus on the field, but sitting on the side of Armstrong Field feels like a carnival, especially when the sunny days extend into hot summer nights.
The award-winning course makeover, which reopened in 2018, features an open lobby between the lower deck and the nosebleed area, creating a unique atmosphere. Enhanced ventilation is great for fans on a hot summer day, but gusts can be trickier for tennis players trying to shoot at 5-cent balls.
There was a constant flow of people in the lobby, as were the beer queues at nearby restaurants and the chatter in the food queues. All of this makes the usual rules of silence and being seated at a certain moment pretty much irrelevant. There’s a lot going on. For someone as distracted as Kyrgios, the cumulative effect of various factors increases the difficulty of winning the game.
It must have been an environment to challenge him if he struggled in the final at Wimbledon, where interactions with fans sparked his legal problems. The atmosphere on the pitch is unique, he said. “I think the Wimbledon game is very suitable. [The] The Australian Open, you kind of expect it, as an Australian,” he said. “But here, it’s just noisy. Point, point, I can barely hear. Half the time, I couldn’t even hear my team because it was so loud all the time.
“Today in Armstrong, hearing trains and vocals, for those of you who have had trouble concentrating in my career, I’ve really put my head down and raced little by little, trying to get myself out of certain situations. It’s hard because there’s a lot of distraction. Obviously, there’s a lot of hooting. People are saying things. I have to be very careful about what I say these days.”
There are some magical moments. Bonzi finished scoring twice on the pitch, separated from his racket, as he rushed a pass to Kyrgios in the first-set tiebreaker. The No. 23 seed faced U.S. wild card JJ Wolff in the third round on Friday, but in the most consistent season of his career, he’s not as good a serve as he is. But Kyrgios still hit 30 aces, some in clutch moments, and also hit some exciting serve late in the fourth set against a couple of break points.
There are times of regret. Spitting on the pitch after conceding a tie in the third set is not advisable, so also blamed his supporters box for the long hours at work. Part of his frustration stemmed from rising expectations. After reaching the final at Wimbledon, he now believes he has what it takes to be at his best in every major he has played.
“It makes life a lot more stressful. Every match I play I want to play amazing tennis,” he said. “Compared to last year…I feel like I’m playing the best tennis of my life, it depends on a lot of things, but I’m happy.”
Bonzi is a stubborn foe, and he provides Kyrgios with a test to hone his form. The Frenchman is a year younger but didn’t qualify for the main line until last year when he won six matches on the Challenger Tour. His long tenure at the second rank made him tough. He took the fight to Kyrgios, refusing to be discouraged after dropping the first two sets, but will regret the chance to beg in the fourth set.
Kyrgios lives to fight again. If he beats Wolfe, he’ll likely play world number one Daniel Medvedev. This will be the men’s championship match so far.