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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Ilia Malinin’s quadruple Axel sheds light on first figure skater to land triple Axel

Vern Taylor
Vern Taylor, the first figure skater to land a triple Axel in competition. (Getty Images)
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Vern Taylor arrived at the Riverside Skating Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Sept. 15 to do what he has done at that rink for the last three decades: coach figure skaters. But this day was different.

Taylor, who in 1978 became the first man to land a ratified triple Axel in competition, was told that 17-year-old American Ilia Malinin performed the first quadruple Axel the previous night.

“When we heard that he landed it, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s terrific,'” Taylor said by phone.

He was then shown video of Malinin’s feat.

“Anything’s possible,” Taylor said. “43 years [later], that’s something. It’s knowing that you can perform the jump that makes it challenging.”

Malinin, the world junior champion, landed the most difficult jump in skating and checked off the only remaining quad yet to be performed.

At the 1978 World Championships in Ottawa, a 20-year-old Taylor broke through a similar barrier in hitting the last remaining unchecked triple jump. But while Malinin’s senior career seems to be just getting started, and many medals appear in his future, Taylor is largely a forgotten man outside of ardent figure skating followers.

He finished 12th at those 1978 World Championships. Taylor’s 1980 Olympic prospects were dimmed by the fact that Canada had just one men’s singles spot, and he had taken runner-up at nationals in 1978 and 1979 to Brian Pockar, who also outscored Taylor at those years’ world championships. So Taylor stopped competing a year before the Lake Placid Games.

“I didn’t have a reason,” he said. “I just decided to take a break.”

Taylor will always have that day at the world championships in Ottawa. He can still remember the nervousness, knowing that two other skaters also planned to attempt a triple Axel. They were unsuccessful, though Taylor didn’t know it.

“I didn’t see their jumps,” he said. “I didn’t want to know what was ahead of me.”

American David Jenkins landed a triple Axel in Movietone newsreel footage reported to be from 1957, but that was not in competition.

Taylor, skating to music from “Rocky,” put the triple Axel as the third jump of his program, according to reports at the time. The one YouTube video of it, published two years ago, has 32,000 views. It shows Taylor landing the three-and-a-half revolution jump on one foot and spinning out of it while managing to stay on that single skate blade amid a crowd roar.

“During that program, it was like a rock concert,” Taylor said. “I got the energy from the audience.”

The Montreal Gazette reported at the time that the jump was ratified three hours later. Italian Sonia Bianchetti, the men’s referee at the 1978 Worlds, said she met with the assistant referee, the ISU president and a technical delegate.

“During this short meeting it was recognized that Vern had completed the first triple Axel Paulsen jump [Norwegian Axel Paulsen was the skater who landed the first Axel jump in 1882, getting it named after him] in an officially recognized figure skating competition,” she wrote in an email last month. “The triple Axel was fully rotated and landed on one foot.”

One of the people inside the Ottawa Civic Centre that day was 16-year-old Canadian Brian Orser. Orser, inspired by Taylor, later became synonymous with the jump — labeled “Mr. Triple Axel” and landing it en route to silver medals at the Olympics in 1984 and 1988 and the 1987 World title.

Orser remembered Taylor visiting his skating club for an exhibition. Orser saw Taylor doing an Axel takeoff exercise off the ice, incorporated it into his own routine and began teaching it to his skaters after becoming a coach.

Yet another Canadian, Kurt Browning, was the first man to land a ratified quadruple jump of any kind in competition — a toe loop at the 1988 World Championships.

“For me, personally, it was huge,” he said, “because I was promised a car if I could land it.”

Through an agreement with an Edmonton car dealership, Browning was handed the keys to a Quattro — quad/Quattro — after hitting the toe loop. The skater was unaware that the dealer was merely leasing it to him. About six months later, Browning received a call asking to bring the car back.

Browning was inspired by American Brian Boitano, whom he previously saw land a quad outside of competition. Taylor motivated him, too.

“[Taylor] gave me permission, even at a young age, to start thinking bigger,” he said.

Browning also pointed to Jozef Sabovčík, a 1980s skater for then-Czechoslovakia who many believe was the first man to land a quad in competition, Browning included. Sabovčík was initially given credit for a quad toe loop at the 1986 European Championships, but weeks later it was invalidated because he touched down with his free foot, according to reports.

“I never want to come off as arrogant, but despite what ISU [International Skating Union] decided in the end, I do know that I landed the jump on that day,” Sabovčík, who said he performed a quad jump on his birthdays through age 44, wrote in an email. “The fact that most of the people in the skating world believe the same thing, it means everything to me that Kurt is one of them. It would have been nice to have my name in the Guinness Book of Records, but I am also not trying to change history.”

Sabovčík, now 58 and coaching in Salt Lake City, attended March’s world championships in Montpellier, France, where Malinin finished ninth. There, he spoke with Malinin’s parents, Russian-born Uzbek Olympic skaters Tatyana Malinina and Roman Skornyakov, whom he calls friends.

“They told me that he was already doing a quad Axel on a fishing pole harness [in practice], and that it was coming,” Sabovčík said.

Less than two months after that talk, the first video surfaced of Malinin landing a clean quad Axel — at a U.S. Figure Skating jump camp.

“I did not think [a quad Axel] was possible,” Sabovčík said. “It really has to be an athlete that can combine the technical ability with jumping ability with the speed of rotation. When Kurt and I jumped, we had a relatively speaking slow rotation, but we jumped really big compared to these kids. But Ilia, he has the vertical lift, but he [also] has an unbelievably fast rotation.”

The recent proliferation of quads in men’s and women’s skating can be attributed to several factors, including better boots, better ice conditions and improvements in technology that can aid coaching. Still, there are concerns about if and how the pounding of training quads can wear down a skater physically.

“It’s a lot of pain you don’t feel at first, but you know it comes later,” said Frenchwoman Surya Bonaly, who started training a quad in 1989 and attempting it through the mid-1990s. Bonaly had two hip surgeries after her competitive career.

Even Taylor faced those questions.

“People said, ‘Aren’t you worried about injuring yourself?'” he said. “I would say, ‘No, I want you to know it can be done.'”

Sabovčík never tried a quad Axel in his skating days, but Browning did for less than a week in the early 1990s after winning four consecutive world titles.

“Just playing with it,” said Browning, who never tried it in competition. “Ilia has that special ability to not only get up in the air, but then he has that beautiful rotation that doesn’t look hurried. It’s fast, it’s quick as lightning, but it doesn’t look hurried. It’s so easy. Like a good golfer swings easy, and the ball goes 400 yards.”

Browning recalled a conversation he had with two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who in recent years made the quad Axel his quest. Hanyu attempted it in competition last season but did not land it cleanly before retiring in July. He said upon retirement that he still hoped to master the jump for his non-competitive show career.

“I asked Yuzu one day, ‘When you do quad Axel, does it just feel like you’re up there forever?'” Browning said. “And he kind of looked at me funny, and he goes, ‘Yeah, like it never ends.'”

The skating world awaits the reserved Hanyu’s thoughts on Malinin’s quad.

“Knowing Yuzu, I would think he’d be very supportive,” said Orser, who coached Hanyu for nearly a decade. “He appreciates that kind of athleticism.”

Orser also noted what comes with being the first — and so far only — skater to land a rarefied jump. Malinin, who headlines Skate America in two weeks, will be asked about the quad Axel in just about every interview for the foreseeable future. For some skaters, they may feel a responsibility to land it all the time.

“But I don’t think [Malinin] thinks too much about it,” Orser said. “His technique is perfect, so he’ll be fine.”

The inevitable topic after that is the next progression in skating: the first quintuple jump. Orser said that Hanyu did five-rotation Salchows in practice with the aid of a harness.

“It’s just a little bit more rotation than the quadruple Axel, so it’s not that far off,” said Sabovčík, whose unratified quad toe loop came eight years after Taylor’s triple Axel. “Now that I’ve seen the quad Axel, I don’t think it’s impossible.”

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Aleksandra Trusova splits from coach Eteri Tutberidze, months after Olympic tears

Alexandra Trusova, Eteri Tutberidze
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Olympic figure skating silver medalist Aleksandra Trusova reportedly split from coach Eteri Tutberidze‘s group, eight months after a tearful scene after the Olympic free skate.

Trusova, 18, will now be coached by Svetlana Sokolovskaya, according to Russian media reports dating to Saturday. All Russian skaters are ineligible to compete internationally indefinitely due to the national ban over the war in Ukraine, but Russia is still holding domestic events.

At the Beijing Winter Games, Trusova became the first woman to land five quadruple jumps in a free skate. She had the highest score that day, but it wasn’t enough to make up the gap to fellow Tutberidze pupil Anna Shcherbakova from the short program.

Moments after the competition ended, Trusova was seen crying and yelling at Sergey Dudakov, a member of Tutberidze’s coaching team.

“Everyone has a gold medal! Everyone has! Only I don’t! I hate figure skating! I hate! I will never step on the ice again! Never!” she said in Russian.

Shcherbakova had the individual gold, and the other Russian women’s singles skater at the Games, Kamila Valiyeva, skated both programs of the team event. The Russians placed first in the team event, but medals will not be awarded until Valiyeva’s doping case is adjudicated. It’s possible that Valiyeva gets retroactively disqualified, the Russian team gets disqualified and the other nations all move up with the U.S. going from silver to gold.

Trusova performed at the Russian test skates last month, withdrawing after her short program due to a back injury.

Trusova previously left Tutberidze in 2020 for two-time Olympic champion turned coach Yevgeny Plushenko‘s group, then moved back to Tutberidze’s group after the 2020-21 season.

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