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No tennis fan will forget the moment when Novak Djokovic, in both a moment of frustration and nonchalance, hit a tennis ball that struck an on-court official at the 2020 US Open. He was defaulted from the tournament based on a rule that leaves little to interpretation.

Nick Kyrgios certainly didn’t forget it, either.
When Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kyrgios’ third-round opponent on Saturday, casually hit a ball into the No. 1 Court seats moments after losing the second set—and barely missed striking the head of a patron—the Aussie, never shy of a verbal confrontation, asked why the Greek wasn’t given the boot.

Kyrgios’ point is well taken, though Tsitsipas didn’t actually hit anyone with his errant swipe. Had he, the No. 4 seed may very well have been defaulted.

Judge for yourself:
If you thought Kyrgios took that decision in stride, I have a bridge to sell you. An endless stream of arguments followed, with one tournament official telling chair umpire Damien Dumusois that Kyrgios called him a “disgrace.” Kyrgios was not given a point penalty for the remark.

When Tsitsipas later returned a missed first serve and nearly hit Kyrgios, the caustic competitor went right back at Dumusois for not making that call, either.

There was more to come.

Serving at 3-1, 40-0 in the third set, Kyrgios hit an underhanded serve—which Tsitsipas, clearly not looking to return in the court, took a huge swipe at and rocketed outside the playing surface.

Tsitsipas was given a point penalty for the action.

“Zero respect for the game, zero respect for his opponent,” a clearly frustrated Tsitsipas said to Dumusois on the changeover.

In the very next game, with Kyrgios approaching the net, Tsitsipas fired a short ball return directly at Kyrgios.

Serving at 5-3, 30-30, Kyrgios got a fortunate net-cord winner with a drop shot—and took an extended bow, to the mixed reaction of the crowd.

Kyrgios won the third set, 6-3, to take a two-sets-to-one lead—despite taking this late fall:

To Tsitsipas’ great credit, he competed in the fourth set as if nothing had distracted him from playing air-tight tennis. He nearly surrendered an early break to Kyrgios; later, he rallied from 0-30 to hold for 4-3.

He even earned a set point at 5-4, but Kyrgios wiped it away with a booming backhand winner. At that point, Tsitsipas was 0 for 5 on break points (Kyrgios was 2 for 14).

They would head to a tiebreak, and at 4-4, after eight consecutive points won on serve, Kyrgios earned the first mini-break. Tsitsipas would get the mini-break back on the very next point, but Kyrgios earned a match point at 6-5 with a serve-plus-one forehand winner.

Tsitsipas saved it after a Kyrgios slice backhand went wide, but two points later, Kyrgios saved a second set point with a deft volley winner.

Nick Kyrgios, who has never gone beyond the quarterfinals at a major, has a viable path to the semis; American Brandon Nakashima will be in his way on Monday in the fourth round.
Nick Kyrgios, who has never gone beyond the quarterfinals at a major, has a viable path to the semis; American Brandon Nakashima will be in his way on Monday in the fourth round.

At 7-7, Kyrgios earned his second match point with a backhand winner after an extended—relatively speaking, given that these two were absolutely crushing the ball—rally.

And with, of all things, a drop-shot winner, Kyrgios emerged from the chaos (that he of course helped create) to reach the fourth round.

“Hell of an atmosphere, amazing match,” Kyrgios said on court afterward. “I had my own tactics out there, and he knows how to play me.”

Asked about having “his tennis do the talking,” Kyrgios had only complimentary things to say about Tsitsipas.

“He was getting frustrated at times, and it’s a frustrating sport, that’s for sure,” perhaps referring to what each player went through today. “I have the ultimate respect for him. Whatever happens on the court, I love him.”

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