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Kyrgios blows two-set lead against Thiem to bow out of Open

It was a schtick with a kick. When the match began to slip from his grasp, he had the effrontery to complain to the chair umpire about the unruliness of the crowd. It was distracting him.

If this all makes Thiem sound like an incidental, to the Kyrgios show he was. But he didn’t get to No.3 in the world by playing fall guy to anyone. He pulled an extraordinary, if conventional trick of his own. From two break points down in the first game of the third set, with obliteration upon him, to the last game of the fourth set, he gave up one point on serve. One! In that run, he turned around the match and his tournament.

Thiem was relieved. At two sets and break points down, he thought he was done. Kyrgios wasn’t displeased. After a year of virtually no tennis, he’d played Thiem on terms.

Nick Kyrgios produced a bit of everything in his five-set loss to Dominic Thiem.

Nick Kyrgios produced a bit of everything in his five-set loss to Dominic Thiem.Credit:AP

Before they started, Kyrgios appealed for greater volume from his crowd. When he broke Thiem in the first game of the match, he cocked an ear to the euphoria, wanting more.

Then followed a second-serve ace, an underarm fault, a tweener, a 222kmh second-serve fault, an exquisite drop shot, and that was just his first service game.

It was as if, like the crowd, he was operating to a deadline. It wouldn’t be his style to become midnight’s pumpkin.

Before four games had passed, Kyrgios had landed another couple of aces, charged a Thiem first serve and grumped to the chair umpire – ironically, about a let he thought should have been called and wasn’t.


In Kyrgios’s hands, this became the sideshow on centre stage. Thiem was a prop, which was all very well, except that he’s the foremost of the heirs apparent,a major championship winner and slated for more.

Simply, he was discombobulated. It was if he knew he would win the balance of orthodox points. It’s just that there were so few of them. That was Kyrgios’s doing. The contest had no run or rhythm, which was how Kyrgios wanted it.

All the while, the crowd kept pouring in. The excitement was contagious, and we’d all better hope that nothing else was. If you were to profile the loudest, well, let’s just say you probably wouldn’t find them at an Ash Barty match. They came in high spirits and, hmm, homespun humour. Some were undoubtedly the funniest people in their own loungerooms.

Between games, even between points, Kyrgios rarely took his eyes off them. He was watching them, watching him.

It was up to Thiem to tame Kyrgios and dampen the fervour. For two sets, he could not find a way into the match. Where he thought there might have been a handle, there was only a mirage. This was Kyrgios’s contrivance.


Thiem needed regularity, rallies, a pattern. He might then have preferred Novak Djokovic to this. At set point for a 2-0 lead, Kyrgios gave him an underarm serve – and won. Kyrgios held out his arms to the crowd messianically. This was no longer a show; it was a command performance. When Kyrgios held two break points for an early lead in the third set, the fat lady began to go through her scales. Both players knew it.

What could go wrong? A blow-up? An untimely injury? Fate? This was Nick Kyrgios remember. Two irksome matters intervened. One was crowd rowdies, who piped during a point. Kyrgios could hardly protest; this was also his doing. But he did, and copped a warning for his language, and later was docked a point. Then his leg sleeve began to slip, and so did his game.

Or rather, Thiem hitched up his. The contest became more recognisable as tennis. After recovering two break points in his first game of the third set, Thiem did not lose another point on serve until the fourth.

It was not that Kyrgios ran out of cute and kooky ideas to sit alongside his flashes of brilliance. It was just that none of it worked on Thiem any more. He has his vaccine. He set himself up on his baseline redoubt, began to land his first serve and methodically worked his way to the ascendancy. He’s done this before.

And Kyrgios has done this before. He raged. He brooded. The tweener volley was frivolous, the point penalty in the next break foolish. He dug deep into his box of tricks, and found a couple more. But Thiem held his nerve and his level, and won it with a brilliant backhand pass down the line. Kyrgios at his cutest could never have matched that.

The show was over. Midnight was approaching. Lockdown was upon us. It was time for all the Kyrgioses to go home. It had been a ball, but it was over, and now there were only pumpkins.

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