MELBOURNE – Nick Kyrgios did his best to create his own atmosphere in a subdued John Cain Arena on Monday as he cruised into the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory over qualifier Frederico Ferreira Silva.
The Australian can usually expect a febrile atmosphere when he plays on his favorite court, but a local coronavirus outbreak and unseasonably cold weather kept many punters away.
Those who did turn up were treated to some vintage Kyrgios moments – a racket thrown across the court, a few choice words toward his box and a few more at the umpire as well as a trademark “tweener”.
Scattered fans in the open air stadium, at best a quarter full, wore puffer jackets and blankets, clearly backing the home favorite with occasional cheers and fist bumps.
“Honestly it was pretty average. I haven’t played a Grand Slam match in over a year. I was very nervous walking out here and I knew I wouldn’t be able to play my best game,” Kyrgios said after the match.
“I was very fortunate that COVID didn’t affect me or my family. I used it as a massive reset and I’m just glad to be back out here.”
Kyrgios, who fronted GQ magazine Australia’s digital cover, is undergoing a rebrand after he put in place new management and looked to reform his bad boy image.
His public support for communities hit hard by Australia’s horrendous bushfires last year endeared him to a wider audience than fans of the game.
Kyrgios certainly played to the local view of top tennis players being divas when he called world number one Novak Djokovic a “tool” when the Serbian, under Australia’s 14-day quarantine, requested houses with tennis courts for players to see out their isolation.
The 25-year-old Australian has always had plenty of tennis talent and the world number 47 had far too much for his Portuguese opponent, who was once a rival in the junior ranks but was making his Grand Slam main draw singles debut.
Kyrgios next plays French 29th seed Ugo Humbert — almost certainly on what he calls the “People’s Court” — as he looks to at least match his run to the quarter-finals here in 2015.
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