Kyrgios-Tsitsipas' fun, fierce rivalry

Nick Kyrgios of Australia during his semi-final match against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the Citi Open on Saturday. The pair's display during the match showed their rivalry will go on to raise the level of each other's play.
Nick Kyrgios of Australia during his semi-final match against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the Citi Open on Saturday. The pair's display during the match showed their rivalry will go on to raise the level of each other's play.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON • The first meeting between Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas, two of the cream of tennis' next generation, lived up to its hype in a wildly entertaining match at the Citi Open.

Kyrgios hammed it up by delivering a repaired sneaker to the top seed, who would be ranked in the top five for the first time today, and marked the last point by shaking a fan's hand in his 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7) upset in a semi-final that had the shine of a championship match. He will meet Daniil Medvedev, 23, who beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-2, 6-2, in the final this morning (Singapore time).

Tsitsipas, 20, and Kyrgios, 24, are poles apart in their personalities and in the way they approach the sport, and they have something of a history.

After getting to know him, the Australian, ranked No. 52, speaks almost tenderly of the man with whom he started playing doubles together this week.

"We actually get along really well," said Kyrgios. "He's one of the best players in the world right now. He's going to have an amazing career."

Saturday's match at the US Open tune-up event showed the only influence they have on each other may be to raise the level of play. Kyrgios displayed the potent mix of controlled, chaotic tennis he usually reserves for the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as he improved to 4-1 against top-10 rivals this year.

Tsitsipas produced fabulous tennis as well, stretching his lanky body to chase down shots that would be winners against lesser players, but he also smiled and laughed more than he had all week.

Kyrgios has that effect, thanks to his assortment of trick shots and jokes. Amid the fun, his racket slams and call complaints, there were spectacular rallies and serves that showed how fiercely both can compete - and how evenly matched they were.

Tsitsipas served 14 aces to Kyrgios' 19. Both won exactly 48 of 58 points (83 per cent) on their first serve. They split the 182 points played exactly down the middle.

The difference? Perhaps it was some advice Kyrgios got just before match point. He turned to a fan to ask where he should place his serve and the response was "to the backhand". It worked.

When the pair embraced after the match at midcourt after 2hr 7min, the crowd was on its feet.

WASHINGTON POST, ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2019, with the headline 'Kyrgios-Tsitsipas' fun, fierce rivalry'. Print Edition | Subscribe