Stefanos Tsitsipas accused Nick Kyrgios of being a bully and possessing an “evil side” after his four-set defeat in Saturday night’s tempestuous third-round clash.
He said: “It’s constant bullying, that’s what he does. He bullies the opponents. He was probably a bully at school himself. I don’t like bullies. I don’t like people that put other people down.
“He has some good traits in his character, as well. But he also has a very evil side to him, which if it’s exposed, it can really do a lot of harm and bad to the people around him.”
Asked about the Greek player’s accusations, Kyrgios said he was “not sure” how he had bullied Tsitsipas.
“He was the one hitting balls at me, he was the one that hit a spectator, he was the one that smacked it out of the stadium,” responded the world number 40.
“I didn’t do anything. Apart from me just going back and forth to the umpire for a bit, I did nothing towards Stefanos that was disrespectful, I don’t think. I was not drilling him with balls.”
Fourth seed Tsitsipas had taken the first set but around an hour later was on the brink of a meltdown, driven to distraction by the latest antics from the terrible enfant of tennis.
A 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 victory for the world No 40 from Australia does not tell a fraction of the story of a stormy match. At one point Kyrgios even demanded his opponent be defaulted after hitting a ball into the crowd, narrowly missing a spectator.
After behaving with choirboy-like restraint in his win over Filip Krajinovic in the previous round, this was the Australian returning to histrionic type.
“The people are here to see me, not you, bro,” Kyrgios told the umpire midway through his dramatic victory, “Don’t tell me what to do.”
Full of noisily delivered complaints, he was chuntering and muttering and stamping his feet throughout this never less than compelling match. And, it has to be admitted, the Court No 1 crowd loved every moment of his pantomime villainy. Largely because in between moans he played some glorious tennis.
This was the Kyrgios paradox writ large: for every gobby moment of insurrection, he delivered a beautiful piece of skill. For every absurdly self-aggrandising moan, he produced a sublime winner. Full of malevolent mischief, he is tennis’s true entertainer.
‘Why don’t you just get a new ref?’
Indeed it is hard to know where to start in describing this victory: with the lengthy debate he had with the officials over the consequences of his opponent should face for hitting a ball into the crowd, or with the casual destruction of Tsitsipas’ 130mph serve.
With his endless whining, or with his wonderfully audacious drop shots. Either way it is hard to argue that Kyrgios was the character at the center of the drama.
He had begun mumbling in the first set. In truth it was a poor line call that first set him off. But instead of putting it down as one of those things, he was straight into the umpire.
“It’s the same thing over and over and over again. Every single match there’s mistakes. So what, you can just say sorry & it’s all good? At five-all, in the f—— first set of Wimbledon third round, he says sorry and it’s all good? Get a new ref then. Why don’t you just get a new one? Why? He’s got one line, bro!”
The umpire wisely chose to ignore such advice. But it didn’t stop Kygrios. Either in his complaining or in his playing. Just after his lengthy moan, he won a service game to love, whipping through each delivery at blinding pace.
And what made this such a compelling watch was that Tsitsipas was capable of a brilliant shot or two himself. One cross-court winner left Kyrgios flat-footed, bereft, not sure who he could blame. These two were clearly made to compete.