Volatile tennis star Nick Kyrgios has no plans to tone down his antics after being embroiled in more controversy on the opening day of Wimbledon.
Kyrgios’s angry exchange with chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani and the threat of a mid-match strike overshadowed his blazing first-round win over Argentine Diego Schwartzman.
Australia’s leading title hope denied calling the Swede “dirty scum” after courtside microphones picked up the 20-year-old venting to his support crew following the dispute midway through the third set.
Believing he’d been dudded a point before dropping serve to fall behind 4-2, Kyrgios told Lahyani: “No, no, no. That’s not the rules” and demanded a senior tournament official come to court two to settle the issue.
“I will sit down here and wait until whenever he comes,” Kyrgios said before playing on, regaining his composure and wrapping up the match in just 84 minutes.
Kyrgios was later quizzed about who he was referring to when he muttered “dirty scum, unbelievable”.
“I wasn’t referring to the ref at all there. Yeah, I mean, it was towards myself,” he said.
The two-time grand slam quarter-finalist has drawn criticism for his on-court conduct, with his former Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter last week saying Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic both needed to mature to maximise their immense potential.
Kyrgios, though, said the prospect of being fined for his latest outburst “wouldn’t bother me one bit” and vowed to continue being his own man.
“I play the sport the way I play it. I’m not going to change,” he said.
“The sport needs characters. I feel like it’s good when you see someone that’s raw and just plays the game the way they play it, doesn’t really worry about other stuff when they’re out there.”
Kyrgios’s spat wasn’t the first time he’d locked horns with Lahyani, the respected umpire who presided over John Isner’s epic 11-hour win over Nicolas Mahut in 2010.
The Australian received a code for unsportsmanlike conduct during his victory over Roger Federer in Madrid last month, saying “get him out of here” to the Swede in reference to a linesman’s apparent incorrect call.
His blow up aside on Monday, Kyrgios could hardly have made a hotter start to his campaign.
He took the first set in just 17 minutes and, after conjuring more break points in the first game of the second set, threatened to emulate countryman Todd Woodbridge’s triple-bagel win over Johan Ortegren in Wimbledon qualifying in 2001.
But the South American held serve to finally get on the scoreboard before Kyrgios resumed his first-round cakewalk.
A quarter-finalist last year ranked 144th in the world, Kyrgios is seeded 26th and rated by four-times champion John McEnroe as a title smokey in 2015.
The 20-year-old next faces either Juan Monaco or Florian Mayer on Wednesday after dispelling any doubts about his capacity to deliver following a split from his coach on the tournament eve.
He showed great nerve not to unravel after going down a service break following his dispute with Lahyani.
“There’s a lot of pressure out there. Sometimes you get lost in the heat of the moment a little bit,” Kyrgios said.
“I thought the call was wrong, to be honest. I thought it was a replay.
“I broke straight back. That’s a good sign. I could easily have let the set turn and focus on the fourth set, but I thought I fought back well.”