MELBOURNE • Australian bad boy Nick Kyrgios was booed off court and accused of giving up as he crashed out of the Australian Open second round in a stormy five-set defeat to Andreas Seppi yesterday.
In a madcap match, 14th seed Kyrgios looked in command with a two-set lead before a familiar meltdown in the third set changed the complexion of the contest.
The 89th-ranked Seppi, who saved a match point, advanced to a third-round match with Belgium's Steve Darcis with a 1-6, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 6-2, 10-8 win in 3hr 9 min.
Kyrgios was booed off the court by some of the fans, while tennis great John McEnroe - no stranger to tantrums - hit out at the brash youngster.
"What I don't understand, what I can't accept, is when he stops trying. It's a black eye for the sport," McEnroe, a seven-time Major champion, said in his television match commentary.
Kyrgios said of McEnroe's criticism: "My body was sore. I was hurting. I mean, John McEnroe. Good on him. Great career. Good on him."
Melbourne Park Snippets
A MENTAL BLOCK
He's the most talented guy in the world, maybe aged 29 or under. He could be the best player in the world, but mentally he's about 200 in the world.
JOHN MCENROE, the former world No. 1, on Nick Kyrgios suddenly switching off after losing his first service game of the fourth set in a 6-1, 7-6 (7-1), 4-6, 2-6, 8-10 loss to Andreas Seppi.
The 21-year-old was also dismissive of the booing, saying: "Yes, obviously it's not the greatest thing to hear. 10-8 in the fifth, getting booed off, definitely not the best feeling."
While there were mixed feelings over his stormy exit, Seppi was savouring a memorable victory after losing in five sets to the Australian on the same Hisense Arena court in the 2015 edition.
"Maybe it was meant to be. It was a tough match and I didn't start well. I could not get the rhythm but I started to play better," he said.
Kyrgios is making his return from a ban for "lack of best efforts" during a match in Shanghai, and has been seeing a psychologist.
But yet again his brittle temperament snapped during the third set as Seppi came storming back after looking down and out.
Asked how he collapsed so spectacularly, Kyrgios told reporters: "Poor management, I guess. I think I didn't have the best preparation.
"I did a couple things in the off-season that I'm probably not going to do next time. My body's not in good enough shape. You live and you learn."
STAT OF THE DAY
The number of times China's Duan Yingying and Venus Williams have seen each other play. Duan, 27, revealed before their third-round meeting tomorrow: "I don't know anything about Venus' play. I've never seen her play." Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Williams, 36, will also need to do some homework , saying: "I don't know anything about her. I have never seen her play. Zero, like zero."
SELECTED DAY 3 RESULTS
Men's 2nd rd
Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt Jeremy Chardy (Fra) 6-3 6-4 6-3, Roger Federer (Sui) bt Noah Rubin (USA) 7-5 6-3 7-6 (7-3), Stan Wawrinka (Sui) bt Steve Johnson (USA) 6-3 6-4 6-4, Andreas Seppi (Ita) bt Nick Kyrgios (Aus) 1-6 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 6-2 10-8, Daniel Evans (Gbr) bt Marin Cilic (Cro) 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-3, Andy Murray (Gbr) bt Andrey Rublev (Rus) 6-3 6-0 6-2.
Women's 2nd rd
Angelique Kerber (Ger) bt Carina Witthoeft (Ger) 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-2, Venus Williams (USA) bt Stefanie Voegele (Sui) 6-3 6-2, Eugenie Bouchard (Can) bt Peng Shuai (Chn) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2, Garbine Muguruza (Esp) bt Samantha Crawford (USA) 7-5 6-4, Mona Barthel (Ger) bt Monica Puig (Pur) 6-4 6-4.
He was given a warning for an audible obscenity by chair umpire Carlos Ramos before he bounced his racket angrily into the court after a break of service.
Ramos docked him a point penalty as Seppi served out for the third set to turn the tide against the volatile Australian.
Seppi maintained his composure and seized the advantage as Kyrgios suddenly switched off.
In the final set, the 32-year-old Italian brought up two match points at 9-8 and won with an ace, dumping Kyrgios out of his home Grand Slam.
Former world No. 1 Roger Federer was made to work by 200th-ranked Noah Rubin. In what could be ominous signs for Federer, America's Rubin kept him largely at bay in the first set and broke in the third, before the 35-year-old won 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).
The 17th seed and 17-time Grand Slam champion, feeling his way back from injury, will face a much tougher assignment in the third round against old rival Tomas Berdych.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Day 4: Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 8am & 4pm