By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Nick Kyrgios did not disappoint in his maiden Grand slam final as the Australian brought his extraordinary brand of improvised tennis theatre to the world’s greatest tennis stage on Sunday.
Wimbledon finals are revered like no others but the 27-year-old Kyrgios was never going to let the enormity of the occasion stifle his showman instincts in a clash with six-times champion Novak Djokovic.
In dazzling sunshine, he played mesmerising tennis and had top seed Djokovic under his spell in a first set of outstanding quality before buckling under the relentless accuracy of the Serb to go down 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(3) in three absorbing hours.
The 15,000 people crammed into Centre Court, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son George, did not have to wait long for the fireworks to start.
Kyrgios produced an underarm serve on the fourth point of his first service game, then a sublime tweener in the eighth game — losing both points but having the crowd in raptures.
He belted down 30 aces, and at times made shots with a high degree of difficulty look ridiculously easy.
But there was also the dark side and an audible obscenity warning in the third set after ranting about a heckling female fan.
“Looks like she’s had 700 drinks bro,” Kyrgios shouted at umpire Renaud Lichtenstein.
Asked later about the incident, he said: “I don’t need someone absolutely smashed talking to me point in, point out. Do you know what I mean?
“I’ve been on a couple nights out in my life, and I knew that she had too many. I told the umpire, she’s speaking to me a lot, she’s drunk. What are you going to do about it?”
In the heat of battle, Kyrgios also vented his frustration at his entourage, letting rip when he dropped serve at 4-4 in the third set having led 40-0 — a game that proved crucial.
Sitting on his chair at the changeover he yelled across the court, accusing his team, sat close by the Royal guests, of not offering him enough support. “Why? Why?” he shouted repeatedly.
But there were none of the really unsavoury antics that have blighted his career and the Centre Court crowd were roaring him on in the fourth set, hoping for a decider.
Kyrgios began the tournament with a fine for spitting towards a fan following his first-round victory over Paul Jubb and again after a toxic third-round clash with fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But for the second week of the tournament he largely let his tennis do the talking and the hope is that he will continue to blend the ingredients of his special game and colourful personality to challenge again for a Grand Slam title.
“I’m not behind the eight ball at all. I played a slam final against one of the greatest of all time, and I was right there,” Kyrgios said. ” It was a hell of an occasion.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)