Nick Kyrgios curses, asks for default, demands supervisor in Wimbledon win

Nick Kyrgios
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WIMBLEDON, England — Nick Kyrgios cursed at the Wimbledon chair umpire and asked, “Are you dumb?” He demanded to see a Grand Slam supervisor after questioning why his opponent, Stefanos Tsitsipas, didn’t forfeit their ever-contentious, never-boring match for angrily hitting a ball into the stands after dropping the second set.

Unsatisfied with the response, Kyrgios asked, “What are you talking about, bro?” Then came this: “Bro, bring out more supervisors. I’m not done. Bring ’em all out. I don’t care. I’m not playing until we get to the bottom of this.”

Narrator: He did continue to play Saturday. And the unpredictable, unseeded Kyrgios won 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7) to reach the fourth round at the All England Club for the first time since 2016 — then was criticized by the No. 4-seeded Tsitsipas for having “a very evil side.”

“It’s constant bullying. That’s what he does. He bullies the opponents,” said Tsitsipas, the 2021 French Open runner-up, who also lost to Kyrgios on grass at a tournament in Halle, Germany, last month. “He was probably a bully at school himself. I don’t like bullies.”

WIMBLEDON DRAWS: Women | Men

There was more, so much more, from underarm serves hit by the Kyrgios — including one between his legs — to the three shots purposely smacked right at him by Tsitsipas. A total of three code violations were called by chair umpire Damien Dumusois, one on Kyrgios for an audible obscenity, and two on Tsitsipas for ball abuse, earning a point penalty.

Told of Tsitsipas’ “bully” comment, Kyrgios laughed and shook his head.

“He was the one hitting balls at me. He was the one who hit a spectator. … I didn’t do anything. Apart from me going back and forth with the umpire, I did nothing toward Stefanos today that was disrespectful, I don’t think,” Kyrgios said at his news conference, wearing a T-shirt with former NBA player Dennis Rodman’s name on it.

“If he’s affected by that today, then that’s what’s holding him back,” Kyrgios said about Tsitsipas. “Because someone can just do that, and that’s going to throw him off his game like that? I just think it’s soft.”

There even was some terrific tennis along the way, with the players combining for 118 winners. It all took 3 hours, 17 minutes, with nary a dull moment, and finished so late that the retractable roof at No. 1 Court was shut and the artificial lights turned on midway through the fourth set.

Tsitsipas held a pair of set points to force a fifth, but Kyrgios saved both, the latter with a half-volley winner after serving-and-volleying on a second serve.

Kyrgios, a 27-year-old from Australia, converted his second match point with a drop shot, then roared. That sort of skill has always been evident from Kyrgios, who twice has been a Grand Slam quarterfinalist. Also long obvious: Kyrgios often appears more interested in entertaining or arguing than in doing whatever it takes to finish on the right side of the score.

On Saturday, during one changeover midway through the fourth set, Kyrgios sat in his chair, barking between bites on a banana. Was he shouting at an official? At the folks seated in his guest box? At himself? Hard to know with him, sometimes.

He was fined $10,000 by the tournament for unsportsmanlike conduct at his first-round match, which he ended by spitting the direction of a spectator he said was heckling him. It is the largest of the 22 prize money penalties issued in Week 1.

Kyrgios has a history of crossing the line during matches. In 2019, he was placed on a six-month probation by the ATP Tour after being fined $113,000 for eight infractions at a tournament. Earlier that season, he was defaulted from a match at the Italian Open after throwing a chair. In 2016, he was suspended by the ATP for not trying to win and for insulting fans during the Shanghai Masters.

His issues with Dumusois began in the first set, when he was disturbed by a reversed call by a line judge and wanted that official removed. Didn’t happen.

“There comes a point where you really get tired of it, let’s say,” said Tsitsipas, a 23-year-old from Greece. “The constant talking, the constant complaining.”

After Kyrgios broke to grab the second set, Tsitsipas swatted a ball with a backhand into the crowd. The ball appeared to ricochet off a wall, but what wasn’t entirely clear was whether it landed on anyone.

Tsitsipas apologized for that afterward, saying it stemmed from frustration created by “all the circus show going on, on the other side of the net.”

“I didn’t hit any people. It did hit the wall, thank God,” he said, and acknowledged he was trying to hit his foe with some other balls aimed right at his body. “For sure I’m never doing that again. It’s my responsibility, for sure.”

That drew just a warning from Dumusois, which didn’t sit well with Kyrgios.

“You can’t hit a ball into the crowd and hit someone and not get defaulted,” Kyrgios said, bringing up the episode at the 2020 U.S. Open involving Novak Djokovic, who was ejected from a match after inadvertently hitting a ball that struck a line judge in the throat.

At one point, Kyrgios told Dumusois: “You don’t know how to play, so how about you don’t tell me how to play? … Bro, the people want to see me, not you.”

They will get another chance to see Kyrgios on Monday, when he faces Brandon Nakashima for a spot in the quarterfinals. Nakashima is one of four American men in the fourth round, the most at Wimbledon since 1999.

The other men’s matches Monday will be 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal against No. 21 Botic van de Zandschulp, No. 11 Taylor Fritz against qualifier Jason Kubler, and No. 19 Alex de Minaur against Cristian Garin.

Nadal’s 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 27 Lorenzo Sonego was nowhere near as off-the-rails as Kyrgios vs. Tsitsipas, but it had its own bit of back-and-forth between the players over etiquette.

Nadal didn’t like that Sonego’s grunts were too loud and stretched out too long. Sonego didn’t like that Nadal beckoned him to talk at the net about it.

Unlike Kyrgios and Tsitsipas, though, they settled their differences in the locker room afterward.

“I have to say,” Nadal said at his news conference, “that I was wrong.”

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World Athletics Athletes of the Year: Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, Mondo Duplantis

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone
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Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Mondo Duplantis were named World Athletics Athletes of the Year after world record-breaking performances in 2022.

McLaughlin-Levrone, who lowered her 400m hurdles world record twice this year, won the award for the first time. She became the first American to win Athlete of the Year since fellow 400m hurdler Dalilah Muhammad in 2019.

“I would describe 2022 for myself by just saying incredible,” McLaughlin-Levrone said. “Everything that we aimed to do we were able to accomplish.”

The other finalists were Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan, who broke the 100m hurdles world record en route to the world title; Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won her fifth world 100m title; Peru’s Kimberly Garcia, who swept the 20km and 35km race walk world titles, and Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas, who broke her own triple jump world record and swept the indoor and outdoor world titles.

McLaughlin-Levrone has said she wants to add the flat 400m to her program in the coming years. She has never run that event at a senior championship meet, but showed her flat potential in the 4x400m relay at worlds in July. Her split — 47.91 seconds — made her the seventh-fastest relay performer in history and second-fastest in the last 33 years behind Allyson Felix.

At next summer’s world championships, the women’s 400m hurdles first round heats start 2 hours and 20 minutes before the women’s 400m semifinals. Top-level pros rarely race multiple times in one session in a distance longer than 200 meters at any meet.

Duplantis, the Louisiana-raised Swede, won the men’s award for the second time in three years. He upped his pole vault world record three times in 2022 and swept the world indoor and outdoor and Diamond League titles in the event.

“It’s probably been by far the best year that I’ve ever had,” Duplantis said.

The other men’s finalists were Moroccan steeplechaser Soufiane El Bakkali, who went undefeated in 2022; Norwegian runner Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the world outdoor 5000m champion who ran the world’s fastest mile in 21 years; Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own marathon world record by 30 seconds, and American Noah Lyles, who broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old national record in the 200m.

Duplantis will likely try to continue upping his world record one centimeter at a time like Ukraine legend Sergey Bubka did on an almost annual basis from 1984 through 1994. Duplantis’ current record is 6.21 meters. The next significant milestone is 6.25 meters, or 20 feet, 6 inches.

“We’ll so how high, but I want to push it higher than people think is even possible,” he said.

Erriyon Knighton became the first athlete to twice win the Rising Star award, given to the top U20 track and field athlete.

Knighton, 18, took 200m bronze at the world championships on July 21 in Eugene, Oregon, becoming the youngest individual sprint medalist in championships history. He was part of a U.S. medals sweep with Lyles and Kenny Bednarek.

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A wild Grand Prix Final has a quadruple Axel, the Brits and a figure skating tale for the ages

Ilia Malinin
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The world’s best figure skaters gather for the first time this season at this week’s Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy. The Who’s Who is a very different group than from February’s Olympics, as expected, with the fall Grand Prix Series also producing some unpredictable stories.

Of the 18 skaters who won Olympic medals outside of the team event, just two of them competed internationally this fall. As was known before the season, all Russians are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. China’s top skaters didn’t enter the Grand Prix Series. Nathan Chen and the French ice dance couple of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are on indefinite, possibly permanent breaks after winning long-awaited golds.

It is time for new stars to emerge. That happened. American Ilia Malinin, last year’s world junior champion at age 17, became the first skater to land a quadruple Axel in competition in September. Then he did it again in October, and again in November.

It is time for new stories to emerge. The Grand Prix Final is the most exclusive event in figure skating — taking the top six per discipline from the Grand Prix Series — since it was introduced in 1996. This year, Belgium and Great Britain qualified skaters for the first time in more than a decade. Japanese men who were seventh and eighth at their national championships last season are in the field. As is a 39-year-old pairs’ skater from Canada who competed against Michelle Kwan in the 6.0 scoring era.

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Broadcast Schedule

The U.S. qualified skaters into the Final in every discipline for the first time in 15 years. The team is led statistically by Malinin, the world No. 1 bidding to be the second-youngest man to win a Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko.

Malinin, whose mom won the 1999 Grand Prix Final, is one half of the most anticipated head-to-head showdown this week. He takes on Japan’s Shoma Uno for the first time since the world championships in March, when Uno won and Malinin placed ninth in his debut on that stage. This season, Malinin and Uno each won their two separate Grand Prix starts, with Malinin having the best total score by a scant 61 hundredths of a point.

NBC Sports analyst Johnny Weir called Malinin the favorite for the Final and for March’s worlds (which could include Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan, who has been sidelined this fall due to leg and ankle injuries). But Weir also said that if Malinin and Uno skate clean this week, the 24-year-old Uno has the advantage.

“He’s had the longevity. He’s had the time in front of these top judges. And artistically, he’s so excellent,” Weir said.

The world’s highest-scoring women’s singles skater this season will compete at the Final, but in the junior division. Japan’s Mao Shimada won both of her junior Grand Prix starts. She is 14 years old, and with the age limit being raised in coming seasons will not be old enough for the next Olympics in 2026 (reminiscent of countrywoman Mao Asada, who was too young the last time Italy hosted the Winter Games in 2006).

Without Shimada, and without the Russians who dominated recent seasons, the women’s field is the most closely bunched at the Final. Mai Mihara, who missed the Olympics after placing fourth at Japan’s Nationals last December, was the lone woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this fall. Kaori Sakamoto, last season’s world champion in the Russians’ absence, has the top score this season among senior women (and a shout out from Janet Jackson). But the six skaters at the Final are separated by just 4.47 points in best scores this fall.

American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, is the youngest woman in the field by four years. NBC Sports analyst Tara Lipinski said that Levito has a total package of jumps, artistry and competitive fire not seen in U.S. skating in many years. Levito, who has made short films, including “The Pickle Murder,” is reminiscent of Sasha Cohen, the last U.S. women’s singles skater to win an Olympic medal in 2006.

“There’s never a hand, finger, hair out of place when it comes to Isabeau’s skating,” Lipinski said. “Looking back at my first year as a senior, I was terrified. I looked like a junior coming up to the senior ranks. Isabeau, she’s gone past that phase.”

Pairs’ skating saw the highest turnover. The top five teams at the Olympics were Russian and Chinese, and none have competed internationally since. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier took advantage at March’s worlds, becoming the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Knierim and Frazier won both of their Grand Prix starts this fall, but were flawed. Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who took silver at worlds, averaged 10 more points in their separate Grand Prix victories.

“Comparing people based on the scores that they accrue in different competitions is a nice way to see how people are faring in front of international panels, but it’s not a direct comparison between the two at all,” Weir said. “They’re very evenly matched.”

But the coolest story in pairs, and arguably in all of figure skating, is 39-year-old Canadian Deanna Stellato-Dudek. With partner Maxime Deschamps, she became the oldest Grand Prix podium finisher in October and the oldest champion in November. Stellato-Dudek, the 2000 World junior silver medalist in singles from Chicagoland, retired from figure skating in 2001 due to injuries, then came back in 2016 in pairs and switched nationality.

Weir recently came across photos of him with Stellato-Dudek when they competed at the same junior Grand Prix event in Norway in 1999.

“I’m pretty sure she was skating when I was skating, so that is a crazy feat in itself,” said Lipinski, whose last competition was winning the 1998 Olympics.

Ice dance, usually the most predictable of the four disciplines, sprung surprises this fall. Three-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates were the top returning couple based on results from last season’s Olympics and worlds, but the Americans rank outside the top three this fall by results and best total score.

Still, 2006 Olympic silver medalist Ben Agosto said they’re looking better than ever, having improved from their first Grand Prix to their second Grand Prix.

“The challenge for them is they’ve been so good for so long that they don’t want to get stale,” Agosto said of a couple that’s in their 12th season together. “They don’t want people to start to think, well, you know, two seasons ago was better than this, or five seasons ago was better than this. They want to always be reinventing, but then also capitalizing on their biggest strengths.”

Canadian veterans Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, ranked third among returning couples going into the fall, won both of their Grand Prix starts with the world’s top two scores across all events. Agosto believes that the field is closer than the point totals suggest and that some couples have been underscored, including Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who qualified into the Final in the sixth and last spot.

Agosto said that Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson, Great Britain’s first Grand Prix Final qualifiers since 2009, can “blow the roof off” with their Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez rhythm dance and Lady Gaga free dance.

“You can just feel the the intensity that everyone is bringing after their Olympic experience and coming back and feeling rejuvenated and maybe feeling the adrenaline effect of having a little bit more of an opportunity because Papadakis and Cizeron are not there, because the Russians are not there,” Agosto said. “I’ve really seen across the board this group stepping up from last season, so I don’t think that it would just be a clear OK, well, if those other teams were in the game this year, they would, by default, be on top.”

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