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Nick Kyrgios implodes to end Miami Tennis, Sinner advances along with Alcaraz

Nick Kyrgios of Australia smashes his tennis racquet during a changeover against Jannik Sinner of Italy during a fourth round match of the Miami Open tennis tournament at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, USA, 29 March 2022. Kyrgios was accessed penalties during the match. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

By Ricky Dimon
You never know when Nick Kyrgios is going to go from zero to hero. You also never know when he is going to go from hero to zero.

At the start of this season, Kyrgios–from pretty much out of nowhere–trended in the positive direction. He captured the Australian Open doubles title with Thanasi Kokkinakis and then made a run to the Indian Wells quarterfinals, losing only to Rafael Nadal in a three-set thriller.

The Miami Open started out just as impressively. The 26-year-old dominated his way into the fourth round, complete with a 6-3, 6-0 blowout of Andrey Rublev. He looked as motivated as ever.

But for no apparent reason, the other side of Kyrgios showed itself on Tuesday afternoon. Seething at chair umpire Carlos Bernardes from the start, complaining about the difference in playing conditions between the stadium (where he won his first three matches) and the Grandstand (where he found himself on Tuesday), and facing an opponent whose serve he could not break, the Aussie imploded en route to a 7-6(3), 6-3 loss at the hands of Jannik Sinner.

Despite a whole host of mental meltdowns, Kyrgios’ game never really went away. The world No. 102 did not drop serve a single time, but he lost the first-set tiebreaker in part because of a point penalty and then incurred a game penalty at the end of the set for destroying a racket–his third code violation of the match. Since Kyrgios was supposed to start the second set serving, that gave Sinner a break.

Jannik Sinner of Italy reacts against Nick Kyrgios of Australia during a fourth round match of the Miami Open tennis tournament at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, USA, 29 March 2022. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

It might as well have been all but over right then and there, because the Italian held serve the entire way. Kyrgios never had a chance to get back in it, and Sinner ended it in style with an insurance break at 5-3.

Afterward, Kyrgios placed much if not all of the blame on Bernardes.

“When everyone in that crowd is booing an umpire, and he’s becoming the center of attention, that’s not his job. Because no one in that entire stadium bought a ticket to see him talk or play or do what he does.”

More tickets will be bought to see Sinner, who has survived all different kinds of wild matches this fortnight.

“Today I raised a little bit my level,” said the world No. 11, who needed to save a combined eight match points against Emil Ruusuvuori and Pablo Carreno Busta in his first two Miami matches. “I had to, because he’s a very aggressive player, especially when he serves well. I’m very happy about my performance today…. I think he’s very solid on his backhand, which he plays very, very flat. I tried to somehow move him a little bit, trying to make him a little bit off balance–especially trying to get as many balls in return games in the court, which today I think I did very well.”

Of course, the best thing Sinner did was stay composed. While Kyrgios went crazy, the 20-year-old basically didn’t say a word the whole afternoon.

Sinner’s well-deserved reward is a Wednesday matchup with surprise quarterfinalist Francisco Cerundolo.

The rest of the quarterfinal lineup features Daniil Medvedev, Hubert Hurkacz, Carlos Alcaraz, Miomir Kecmanovic, Alexander Zverev, and Casper Ruud. Alcaraz, who is coming off a semifinal showing at the Indian Wells Masters, remained on fire with a straight-set defeat of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.