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Alexei Popyrin pulls out of US Open, joining Ash Barty, Nick Kyrgios and other tennis stars on sidelines


Alexei Popyrin is the latest Australian tennis star to pull out of the US Open due to concerns about coronavirus.

Popyrin made a run to the third round of this year’s Australian Open after a breakout 2019, during which he cracked the top 100 for the first time.

The 20-year-old world number 103 joins Nick Kyrgios and women’s world number one Ash Barty in withdrawing from the major, which is set to start on September 1.

The event will also be without men’s world number two Rafael Nadal, due to coronavirus concerns, and fourth-ranked Swiss great Roger Federer, due to injury, while Federer’s countryman and 2016 champion Stan Warinka has also opted out because of “the health situation in New York”.

The women’s draw has also been hit hard, with two more players from the top 10 joining Barty on the sidelines over the weekend.

Elina Svitolina holds both her hands on her hips and looks up at the sky
Elina Svitolina faced Ash Barty in the decider of the WTA Finals last year.(AP: Adam Hunger)

World number five Elina Svitolina — who made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year — and seventh-ranked Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens are also gone.

Popyrin’s withdrawal means 2012 US champion Andy Murray, who had been granted a wild card at the tournament, will now move into the main draw.

The French Open, traditionally the second major of the year, starts on September 27, meaning anyone who wanted to play both would only have a two-week turnaround from hard court to clay if they reached the final.

This year’s Wimbledon was cancelled.



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The coronavirus pandemic could be the making of Nick Kyrgios 2.0


The list isn’t long, but there are a few good things that have emerged during the coronavirus pandemic.

The long-overdue recognition of our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are certainly up there.

As is the ability of opposing political parties to work together in the national interest.

Oh, and that Powderfinger online reunion concert back in May was pretty special too.

The pandemic has also shown us another side of many of our sporting greats.

Top footballers, basketballers and cricketers have had their lives and livelihoods turned upside down by the mass cancellation or restructuring of sporting events.

Some have struggled to adapt to the new COVID normal, others have taken it in their stride and have even grown in stature.

Which brings us to Nick Kyrgios.

Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios rises a racket above his head as he prepares to smash it during a match at the ATP Cup.
It’s fair to say Kyrgios has been a polarising figure.(AAP: Craig Golding)

Pampered brat turned tennis elder statesman?

Now, it’s fair to say many haven’t been much of a fan of tennis’s bad boy.

I have often expressed my dismay, frustration and outright anger at Kyrgios’s on and off-court antics.

To be honest, when he’s in full racket-smashing, umpire-abusing and chair-hurling mode, Kyrgios is an exceptionally hard person to like.

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And, judging by the free character references that flow whenever he throws one of his tantrums, it’s clear a lot of other Australians feel the same way.

A tennis player of prodigious talent has often looked as though he wanted to be anywhere else than on the court.

If that was the case, Kyrgios has certainly got his wish this year, but for all the wrong reasons.

The pandemic has smashed the international tennis circuit.

A raft of tournaments have been cancelled, including the biggest of them all, Wimbledon.

Others have been postponed in the hope the virus threat eventually eases, but some, astonishingly, are going ahead as scheduled.

The biggest of these is the US Open, which is due to begin in less than a month.

Not surprisingly, some players aren’t willing to hop on an international flight and travel to a country that has the world’s highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

Women’s world number one Ash Barty pulled out, as has fellow Australian Sam Stosur.

Kyrgios withdrew on Sunday, but in doing so he sounded more like a tennis elder stateman than a pampered brat.

A tennis player stands with his head down and his fist in front of his face after losing a point.
Nick Kyrgios says he is sitting out the US Open for Australians, and for the Americans who have died from COVID-19.(AP: Adam Hunger)

The 25-year-old pleaded with the tennis community to focus squarely on health and safety.

“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me,” he said in a video posted online.

“These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

He took a none-too-subtle swipe at other players being selfish (more on that in a moment), before urging the tennis world to “act responsibly”.

Are we witnessing Kyrgios 2.0?

Now, you could be forgiven for wondering whether this is the same guy who has become something of a poster-child for irresponsibility and immaturity. And, sure, there may be some image consulting going on behind the scenes.

But Kyrgios has barely put a foot wrong this year.

He lashed out earlier in the pandemic at Novak Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and other players for going ahead with an exhibition tournament in the Balkans, declaring their actions selfish and stupid.

Djokovic, Dimitrov and two others subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

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While there’s a lot of history between Kyrgios and Djokovic, the Australian’s stance won him a lot of applause.

Going back to the start of this challenging year, Kyrgios was tireless in helping drum up support for victims of the summer bushfires, including donating $200 for every ace he served (and there were quite a few).

He has been particularly active in helping bushfire-affected businesses and communities in his home city of Canberra.

Kyrgios has also used his social media accounts to offer food and support for people who have lost their incomes as a result of coronavirus-induced closures.

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In a perverse way, this pandemic could be the making of the Australian tennis star.

After losing to Rafael Nadal in an epic fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January, Kyrgios said he felt like he had made progress as a human.

Call it progress, call it a newfound maturity or call it simply working very hard to avoid the brain snaps, it is such a relief to see.

There’s an awful lot to like about Kyrgios 2.0, and if he channels this positive energy onto the court when play resumes, he could be unstoppable.



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Nick Kyrgios says he won’t play at the US Open over COVID-19 fears, warns players not to be selfish


Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has ruled out playing in this year’s US Open, saying he is making his decision for “my Aussies”, and for the people who have lost their lives in the COVID-19 pandemic.

He becomes the second high-profile Australian tennis player to announce he will be staying away from the New York-based tournament, following this week’s statement by women’s world number one Ash Barty.

The tournament is scheduled to start on August 31 — it will be held at its usual home in Flushing Meadows, Queens but will be played without fans to limit the risk of spreading of the virus.

Kyrgios posted a video on Sunday, where he read from a statement.

“I will not be playing this year at the US Open,” he said.

“It hurts me at my core not to be out there, competing in one of the sport’s greatest arenas, Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s my decision.”

A tennis player stands with his head down and his fist in front of his face after losing a point.
Nick Kyrgios says he is sitting out the US Open for Australians, and for the Americans who have died from COVID-19.(AP: Adam Hunger)

Uncertainty remains around the tournament that is usually the last major of the year.

The tennis world has been largely shut down for months in response to the pandemic, and players have expressed concerns over safety.

While tournaments are just about to restart, there have been a number of exhibition events held — the most notorious being the ADRIA Cup, a tournament organised by world number one Novak Djokovic, held in a number of countries, but which featured poor social distancing.

Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric later tested positive. Kyrgios described the decision to go ahead with the exhibition as “boneheaded”, saying people had to stick to the protocols.

Kyrgios has also been drawn into online exchanges with Coric and former world number one Boris Becker over their approach to the virus.

“Dear tennis, let’s take a breath here and remember what’s important, which is health and safety as a community,” he said in the video.

The Canberra native said he had no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open, and that if players wanted to go, that was up to them.

“So long as everyone acts appropriately, and acts safely,” he said.

“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me. I’m speaking for the guy who works in the restaurant, the cleaners, the locker room attendants.

“These are the people that need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

Kyrgios called on players to act in each other’s best interests and work together.

“That’s just so selfish. Think of all the other people for once.



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Nick Kyrgios takes on Boris Becker over Zverev’s apparent coronavirus quarantine breach


Nick Kyrgios has dismissed Boris Becker as a “doughnut” after being branded a rat by the tennis legend for calling out the antics of German ace Alexander Zverev.

Videos emerged on Monday of Zverev partying in Monaco just days after being swept up in Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour debacle.

Zverev had pledged to self-isolate after featuring in the ill-fated tour that led to Djokovic, his wife, three more players and other members of their various entourage testing positive to coronavirus following a stint at a Belgrade nightclub.

A stunned Kyrgios labelled Zverev selfish and called the world number seven out on social media.

But Becker was none too happy with the Canberran’s take-down.

“We all live in the pandemic called #Covid_19 ! It’s terrible and it killed to many lives…we should protect our families/loved ones and follow the guidelines but still don’t like #rats @NickKyrgios @farfetch.”

Kyrgios was quick to strike back.

“Rats? For holding someone accountable? Strange way to think of it champion, I’m just looking out for people. WHEN my family and families all over the world have respectfully done the right thing. And you have a goose waving his arms around, imma say something,” he replied before following up with a second serve.

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“Boris Becker is a bigger doughnut than I thought. Can hit a volley, obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed though.”

The slanging match continued with Becker, a six-times grand slam champion and former world number one, saying: ‘Your funny guy ….how is it down under? Respect all the guidelines?”

“Haha nah bro I’m good, don’t act like you’re my friend now because you got sat down,” Kyrgios tweeted.

Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem stand arm in arm for a photo
Alexander Zverev (L) promised to self-isolate after playing in the Adria Cup event, but the German was then seen partying in Monaco.(AP: Darko Vojinovic)

Zverev had been widely condemned after being filmed dancing in a crowded room in Monaco, prompting Kyrgios to take the 22-year-old to task on Instagram.

“So I wake up and I see more controversial things happening all over the world, but one that stuck out for me was seeing Zverev again man, again, again, how selfish can you be? How selfish can you be?” Kyrgios said.

AAP



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Nick Kyrgios criticises Alexander Zverev for being caught at a Monaco club when supposed to be self-isolating


Nick Kyrgios has savaged fellow tennis star Alexander Zverev after videos emerged of the German partying in Monaco just days after being swept up in Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour debacle.

Zverev pledged on Twitter last week to go into self-isolation after featuring in the ill-fated tour that led to Djokovic, his wife, three more players and other members of their various entourage to test positive to coronavirus following a stint at a Belgrade nightclub.

“I have just received the news that my team and I have tested negative for COVID-19,” Zverev posted.

“I deeply apologise to anyone that I have potentially put at risk by playing this tour. I will proceed to follow the self-isolating guidelines advised by our doctors. As added precaution, my team and I will continue with regular testing.

“I wish everyone who has tested positive a speedy recovery. Stay safe.”

Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem stand arm in arm for a photo
Alexander Zverev (L) tested negative after the Adria Cup — but Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov (2R) weren’t so lucky.(AP: Darko Vojinovic)

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But Zverev has since been widely condemned after being filmed dancing among a room full of people, with a furious Kyrgios taking the 23-year-old world number seven — also known as Sascha — to task on Instagram in a rant filled with expletives.

“So I wake up and I see more controversial things happening all over the world, but one that stuck out for me was seeing Sascha Zverev again man, again, again, how selfish can you be? How selfish can you be?” Kyrgios said.

“I mean, if you have the audacity to put out a f***ing tweet that you made your management write on your behalf saying you are going to self-isolate for 14 days and apologising to f***ing general public about putting their health at risk, at least have the audacity to stay inside for 14 days. My God.

“Have your girlfriend with you for f***ing 14 days. Jesus, man.

The one-time wild child of world tennis, Kyrgios is increasingly becoming the voice of reason for his shut-down sport.

The Canberran initiated the tennis tours’ overwhelming response to Australia’s deadly summer bushfires and has been the sport’s most vocal player in opposing the USTA’s decision to press ahead with this year’s US Open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The positive test for the top-ranked Djokovic has even led to questions being raised about how the Open can proceed, with Kyrgios repeatedly calling organisers “selfish”.

AAP



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Borna Coric tests positive for COVID-19, Nick Kyrgios calls Novak Djokovic ‘boneheaded’ for hosting Adria Tour during coronavirus pandemic


Aussie tennis star Nick Kyrgios has labelled the decision to go ahead with a tournament hosted by Novak Djokovic “boneheaded” after Borna Coric and Grigor Dimitrov tested positive for COVID-19.

On Monday (AEST) Dimitrov became the first high-profile player with a confirmed case of coronavirus after playing in Djokovic’s charity event, and his opponent in the Croatian leg of the Adria Tour, Borna Coric, confirmed he too tested positive.

“I want to make sure anyone who has been in contact with me during the last few days gets tested!” Coric tweeted.

“I am really sorry for any harm I might have caused! I’m feeling well and don’t have any simptoms [sic].”

Dimitrov and Coric played each other over the weekend, embracing at the net before the match but only bumping fists afterwards, although Coric shook hands with the umpire.

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Djokovic organised the Adria Tour to be played in four legs across the Balkans — in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina — with some of the best players in world tennis competing.

Djokovic was widely criticised for hosting the tournament during the coronavirus pandemic, but tried to reassure people last week that the organisers were adhering to government guidelines around safety.

“Of course lives have been lost and that’s horrible to see, in the region and worldwide, but life goes on, and we as athletes are looking forward to competing,” he said.

But Kyrgios, who has been a vocal critic of the world number one in the past, mocked the Serb for a lack of leadership with a few facepalm emojis on Twitter.

Grigor Dimitrov and Novak Djokovic wrestle as they try to get to a basketball.
Djokovic, Dimitrov and other players were seen hanging out and not physically distancing during the tour.(AP: Zvonko Kucelin)

“Boneheaded decision to go ahead with the ‘exhibition’,” he wrote.

Tennis.com reported that Dimitrov’s coach, Christian Groh, and Djokovic’s fitness coach, Marco Panichi, also tested positive.

In addition to world number 19 Dimitrov and Croatian Coric, world number three Dominic Thiem, seventh-ranked Alexander Zverev and world number 14 Andrey Rublev also took part in the first two legs, before Dimitrov’s diagnosis stopped play.

Zverev, Rublev and Thiem all revealed they had tested negative after Dimitrov’s revelation. Djokovic is reportedly still waiting on test results.

Thiem travelled to France and played Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown overnight.



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Nick Kyrgios channels Kobe Bryant in fighting loss to Rafa Nadal in Australian Open fourth round


Updated

January 28, 2020 09:21:04

An emotional Nick Kyrgios says he drew on the spirit of Kobe Bryant in his bold bid to bring down Rafael Nadal at Melbourne Park.

Key points:

  • Nick Kyrgios says he was motivated by what Kobe Bryant stood for in the crunch moments of his Rafa Nadal match
  • Kyrgios says he thinks he has ‘made progress as a human’ this month
  • Nadal praised Kyrgios’s play and attitude throughout the Australian Open

The world number one had to pull out all the stops to end Kyrgios’s gallant Australian Open campaign 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4) in a compelling fourth-round affair on Monday night.

In a touching tribute to Bryant, Kyrgios entered Rod Laver Arena in a Kobe number eight LA Lakers jersey, seemingly in tears, then used the NBA superstar’s death as motivation to keep fighting to beat his bitter rival.

“It’s horrible news. If anything, it motivated me. If you look at the things he stood for, what he wanted to be remembered by, I felt like, if anything, it helped me tonight,” Kyrgios said.

“When I was down a break in the fourth, I was definitely thinking about it. I fought back.”

A crusader for bushfire victims, donating $200 for every ace he hit, Kyrgios has been playing for higher forces all summer and said Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash drove him against Nadal despite backing up from the longest, most physically brutal match of his career in the third round.

“I mean, I’m a [Boston] Celtics fan. When I saw Kobe do what he does, break the hearts of so many Celtics fans, it was tough to see,” Kyrgios said.

“I don’t think they make them like him any more. He was different, the way he trained, the way he did things, the way he played. He was special.

“Just sad. Like, when I think about my life, [it’s] literally basketball. When I think about it, it’s heavy. It’s tough.”

Now without a quarter-final appearance at a grand slam in five years, Kyrgios said he was shattered to have fallen short once again at his home major.

“These are the matches that I want to win the most,” he said.

“Rafa was really good tonight. Played too good. I had chances, I was a couple of points away from the third set and the fourth set.

“But, overall, this summer has been fun. I feel like I’ve made progress as a human.”

The 24-year-old has also made progress in the rankings, with the one-time world number 13 projected to return to the top 20 for the first time since August, 2018.

Even Nadal, a long-time vocal critic, can see the strides he’s made.

“When he is playing like today with this positive factor, he gives a lot of positive things to our sport,” Nadal said.

“I encourage him to keep working like that, because he is one of the highest talents.

“I saw him playing during the whole tournament almost every match, and he has been great, with very positive attitude.

“Personally, I like to watch him play when he’s doing that way. I think everybody likes to watch Nick play when he’s able to play like this.

“His talent is to be one of the best of the world, without a doubt, with good chances to fight for every tournament.”

ABC/AAP

Topics:

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First posted

January 28, 2020 09:12:07



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Nick Kyrgios wants tennis stars to raise funds for bushfires, will donate $200 for every ace he hits


Updated

January 03, 2020 09:16:33

Tennis Australia says plans are in place to support those affected by the country’s bushfires after star Nick Kyrgios’s proposal for a charity exhibition match to raise funds ahead of this month’s Australian Open gained rapid support.

Key points:

  • Nick Kyrgios will donate $200 for every ace he hits this summer to raise funds for bushfire-hit communities
  • Kyrgios says it’s been hard to see the “hazardous” smoke blanketing his home town of Canberra
  • Lleyton Hewitt says Australian Open has the platform to provide significant support to communities

The world number 30 posted his idea to Twitter late on Wednesday, and by Thursday afternoon the concept was gathering pace.

“The more exposure it gets I think we have the potential to do something pretty special there,” Kyrgios told media ahead of the inaugural ATP Cup, where he’ll represent Australia in Brisbane from Friday.

“All the heartbreak this summer; it’s pretty tragic what’s going on, especially with my hometown, Canberra, being under a bit of smoke, the most hazardous smoke in the world at the moment.

“To see Canberra like that, it’s pretty tough to see.”

Kyrgios later tweeted that he would donate $200 for every ace he hit this summer, while Australian teammate Alex de Minaur responded saying he’d go to $250 per ace, because: “I don’t think I’ll be hitting as many aces as you mate.”

The big-serving Canberran nailed 597 aces in 2019, and while he’s not expected to match that figure in a single summer, he is certainly likely to fetch a healthy sum for donations.

The ATP Cup, which will be played between Sydney, Perth and Brisbane from Friday, announced in a tweet that every ace served in its inaugural competition will see the tournament donate $100 to the Red Cross.

Many of the game’s headline acts, including world number one Rafael Nadal and number two Novak Djokovic, are in Australia to play in the newly minted teams event ahead of the year’s first grand slam at Melbourne Park.

Last year Kyrgios, John Millman, Nadal and Milos Raonic played an exhibition match in Sydney in a Team Australia vs Team World Fast4 format.

Australian ATP Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt said the Australian Open’s status as one of the country’s biggest events meant they had a platform to provide significant support.

“Christmas and the new year should be a happy time for these families and lots of these people are doing it pretty tough out there,” he said.

“So I think all of us feel like we would like to help in some way.”

The deadly fires continue to burn across the country and Tiley said Tennis Australia “wanted to help these communities in a meaningful way”.

“For weeks we’ve been watching the devastation caused by bushfires across Australia and the people affected are constantly in our thoughts,” he said.

“We … will announce a number of fundraising and support initiatives that will be rolled out across the ATP Cup, Australian Open and our other events over the coming weeks.

“Stay tuned for further announcements.”

Meanwhile, next week’s Canberra International Challenger event will be moved to Bendigo.

The move is being made due to the ongoing smoke over Canberra and the bushfire crisis.

Players are being offered busses from Canberra, and those still flying in to Melbourne have been asked to catch a train to Bendigo.

They are also being asked to delay travel to Bendigo until Sunday, if possible.

AAP/ABC

Topics:

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sport,

brisbane-4000,

canberra-2600,

act,

australia,

qld,

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First posted

January 03, 2020 08:00:41





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