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'An absolute knob' - Kyrgios' Open antics slammed, but he and Kokkinakis roar into doubles final

The wild cards defeated Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos overnight.

Nick Kyrgios (left) and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrate after winning their semi-final.
Nick Kyrgios (left) and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrate after winning their semi-final.
Image: AAP/PA Images

TENNIS BAD BOY Nick Kyrgios has been labelled “an absolute knob” by an Australian Open rival after a heated doubles clash at Melbourne Park.

Kyrgios showboated and revved up the crowd as he and partner Thanasi Kokkinakis downed New Zealand’s Michael Venus and Tim Putz of Germany 5-7, 6-3, 3-6 in the men’s doubles quarter-final on Tuesday.

The wild cards then went on to defeat Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos overnight to roar into the final. 

But in the previous match, the Aussie mocked Venus’ serving style and at one point smashed a ball into the crowd in frustration, hitting a nine-year-old boy.

Doubles specialist Venus was unamused, accusing Kyrgios of egging on spectators to cheer his opponents’ mistakes.

“It felt like a circus out there, not really a tennis match… you know if it’s on the other foot, old mate (Kyrgios) would have flipped his lid,” Venus told TVNZ on Wednesday.

The Kiwi said that after the match he was inundated with messages on social media from people apologising for the way the fiercely pro-Kyrgios crowd behaved.

“They’ll always be his supporters and he’ll spin it in a way that helps him, but at the end of the day he’s an absolute knob,” Venus added.

Kyrgios, 26, was once expected to be tennis’ next superstar but his sometimes half-hearted approach has seen him slip to 115 in the singles rankings and 259 in doubles.

He remains a major drawcard, particularly in his homeland, but Venus said the Australian’s maturity was not much higher than that of the young boy he hit with a ball in the stands.

“You (can) see why he’s never fulfilled his potential and probably never will,” the New Zealander said.

“His maturity level, it’s probably — being generous — about a 10-year-old, it’s at about that level.”

A packed and raucous Rod Laver Arena roared Kyrgios and Kokkinakis into the men’s doubles final overnight, meaning what began last week as two mates having a good time could well end with a Grand Slam trophy on Saturday evening.

Rod Laver was as busy as it has been all fortnight, and there cannot have been a bigger cheer than that which greeted Kyrgios and Kokkinakis as they walked out to take on third seeds Granollers and Zeballos.

After clinching a 7-6 (4) 6-4 victory, Kyrgios said: “I’ve played a lot of singles matches around the world in amazing atmospheres but this week with Thanasi, nothing beats this, this is insane.”

In the final, they will face another Australian pair, Matt Ebden and Max Purcell, who defeated Britain’s Joe Salisbury and American Rajeev Ram 6-3 7-6 (9) in virtual silence over on Margaret Court Arena.

Kyrgios whipped up the crowd immediately, and the noise only grew when the home duo took the first-set tie-break. Kyrgios missed a set point when he tried a shot through the legs but two big returns from the 26-year-old ultimately proved the difference.

The wild cards looked on their way when they broke in the second game of the second set but Kyrgios lost his serve at 4-2, smashing his racket in anger and becoming frustrated with fans calling out before his serve.

It appeared the match might have turned but Kyrgios and Kokkinakis saved their best returning game for the right moment.

When a final lob from Kokkinakis dropped in, the duo threw their rackets high into the air before jumping into each other’s arms.

Unlike previous opponents, Granollers and Zeballos had no complaints about the crowd or the antics of Kyrgios, with the bigger environs of Rod Laver making it less of a bear pit.

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Kyrgios was angrily confronted by the fitness trainer of Mate Pavic after their third-round victory over the top seeds, while Venus labelled Kyrgios “an absolute knob” following the quarter-final.

“I think tennis is a sport, as of now, that’s never been talked about as much,” said Kyrgios. “We need more attention, we need more viewers. My goal is to only bring new fans that may not be following tennis to watch tennis.

“If they flick on a match and they have Thanasi and I playing in an entertaining doubles match, they know nothing about tennis, if they watch that match just then, they probably would tune in next time. That’s what I’m about. That’s what I want to bring. I think that’s how the sport is going to survive.

“As to Michael Venus, I’m not going to destroy him in this media conference room right now. But Zeballos and Granollers are singles players. They’ve had great careers. I respect them a lot more than I respect Michael Venus.

“I think the balance was there today. The quality of tennis was amazing. I think the festival atmosphere was still there. I think they embraced it. They knew it was an incredible atmosphere. Zeballos took a selfie with us before we walked out. That’s how you embrace an atmosphere.

“You’re not losing a match and then getting salty about it afterwards. It’s ridiculous.

“It’s not like I’m going out there putting on a clown suit and creating a circus. I have also played, won titles, won big titles, I have played the traditional way. I think now I’m able to channel a different fan base.”

“We have four Aussies in the final,” he later added. “Can we stop dividing which crowd is going to go for who. It’s f***ing awesome.”

– © AFP 2022

- Additional reporting on Press Association.

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