As Marija Cicak scanned her umpiring assignments, her heart must have sank because where Nick Kyrgios goes, trouble is rarely far behind.
Indeed Kyrgios was ranting, muttering and firing balls into an adjacent street before he even broke a sweat. Wimbledon fans who secretly love a ‘bad boy’ – see McEnroe and Tarango from tournaments past – certainly got their money’s worth on Court 3.
The player whose name is universally preceded by an adjective such ‘firebrand’ or ‘fiery’ played up to his ‘bad boy’ reputation to edge out British wildcard Paul Jubb in five first round sets, 3-6 6-1 7-5 6-7 (4) 7-5.
As Kyrgios lost his head – accusing a line judge of being a ‘snitch’ and fans of ‘disrespecting’ him – the world number 219 from Hull kept his cool, in a display that underlined his undoubted potential as a rising star of the British game.
Unfortunately he converted just two of the 13 break-point opportunities that came his way against a player famed for his power serving. In such a close game he didn’t need to shift that metric by much to claim the win.
Kyrgios’s talent is unquestionable, his behaviour extremely questionable. There is so much to like about one of the most talented and instinctive players on the Tour and so much to make you want to join him with yells of frustration.
However, in five-set matches at SW19 he is yet to lose – his ability to use his rage to rally really quite remarkable.
“A lot of disrespect was thrown at me and I’m starting to think it’s normal when it’s really not,” he said. “People were just going at me.
“People feel they have a right to comment on every single thing with negativity. I don’t understand why spectators feel they can do that. I can’t do anything because I’ll get in trouble.”
Kyrgios confirmed he did spit in the direction of one fan as he walked off the court but insisted he had not been racially abused, as he was during a recent tournament in Germany.
“I’ve grown up in Australia, I know what racism is,” he added. “There’s no line with the spectators anymore.
“I did spit in the direction of one of the spectators who was disrespecting me. I’ve been dealing with hate and negativity for a long time.”
Kyrgios is a man of contradictions and clearly didn’t mind turning his fury on the officials – who he accused of being ’90’, respecting your elders clearly isn’t something he is worried about.
“I hit a ball in and the old man called it out,” he added.
“Most of the line judges are old and it’s not ideal when you are playing a sport so much small margins. Younger people have better eyesight.”
Jubb, 22, is on the LTA’s Pro Scholarship Programme – the highest level of support for players aged 16-24 – and has long been tipped for success, winning the most prestigious prize in US college tennis three years ago.
He will now reset his sights on a series of Challenger Tour tournaments in Spain but there will surely be a simmering feeling that he didn’t take this chance.
“I’m gutted to come out second best, you don’t want to be a loser,” he said.
“I know I’m a fraction of the player that I’m going to be and what I’m capable of being. I’m in the early stages of my career and I’m on the journey right now. I’m looking to keep climbing and I feel like I could have played a lot better.
“I fought hard but it’s not easy playing Nick with so little experience at this level.
“I’ve not been in the situation before but he’s a difficult player. It’s difficult to manage your game against a player with a serve like that.
“I had chances to break him but it’s a bit of a running trend in recent matches. It was similar in the matches I lost at Queen’s and Eastbourne. The important thing is I’m creating chances, it’s just a matter of time before things turn out differently.
“I’m going to use this to keep moving forward. I want to be winning, I don’t want to settle for narrowly losing a five-set match against a player like Nick. I’m going to keep pushing and driving.”
Jubb insisted he loved the big stage atmosphere, having lost in four sets to João Sousa on his Wimbledon debut in 2019.
“The atmosphere was great, it was first time playing in front of a big rowdy crowd and I loved it,” he added.
“I didn’t pay attention to anything. I didn’t hear anything but if something was said then that’s obviously not good and we need to put that to a stop.”
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