It started with an underarm serve and ended, in practice, with an explosion of graphite, and in reality with four straight aces as Nick Kyrgios grabbed his first claycourt win of the season over Russian world No.14 Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev had been in fine form this year making the final in Barcelona and the semis in Monte Carlo — but Kyrgios got him off his game from the start.
The Australian started the match with an underarm serve that set the tone for what was a bizarre affair full of drop shots, big serves and heavy winners, but what that opening also did was throw the Russian completely off his game, as Kyrgios embarked on a 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory at the Foro Italico.
When was the last time you saw a match begin with an underarm serve??? 🤣😜
Here you go, courtesy of @NickKyrgios #ibi19 pic.twitter.com/EuPZk2Xrzb
Kyrgios broke Medvedev early and went on to dominate the rest of the opening set, winning 20 of 24 points on his serve and hitting 15 winners, most of them drop shots.
The commentators then marvelled at just how well Kyrgios had thrown the Russian off kilter early.
“Medvedev has been bamboozled by Kyrgios — what a nightmare Kyrgios is to play against,” Mark Petchey said.
“Among the trickery there has also been a lot of very good tennis from the world No.36.”
If anyone thought that was a sign the Australian world No.36 was in cruise control then they don’t know Kyrgios or his game — and just as it seemed like things were going smoothly, he inexplicably seemed to lose concentration and was broken when serving at 3-4 in the second set.
After losing the opening point of Medvedev’s service game it was code violation time for the Canberran as he dispatched a ball out of Court Centrale.
Medvedev did not waste any time in serving out the set but on set point he sent one down as Kyrgios was still twirling his racket, it missed, but the Aussie looked confused.
From there it was anyone’s match as Kyrgios spoke to himself about break points while Medvedev was off the court for a bathroom break.
The Australian held serve in the opening game and then Medvedev lost the handle on his own game, making four unforced errors off the backhand to give Kyrgios the service break.
And when he made an error off a Kyrgios drop shot the Russian repeatedly slammed his Babolat racket into the court, shattering it to pieces as the Aussie looked on.
OK. So #Medvedev has finally lost his mind. And I honestly don't blame him!#Kyrgios up 3-0 in the third.
Watch & bet > https://t.co/ZFk7sjnMkU (geo-restrictions apply)
Customers must have a funded Sports account or have placed a bet within the last 24 hours. pic.twitter.com/KUmqmEAm84
It seemed like Kyrgios had the match sewn up but serving at 4-2 up he faced two break points, saving them with a 223kmph second serve ace and a backhand drop shot that showed nerves of steel.
Kyrgios second serve ace/@NickKyrgios (info – @NotUp88 , @AnnaK_4ever ,@tombstk )(🎥@TennisTV ) #ibi19 pic.twitter.com/fyARiHVDGt
From there he served out the match with four straight aces in a phenomenal final service game, making it 41 winners for the match as the commentators did all they could not to laugh.
“Classic Nick Kyrgios, entertaining, dramatic, enthralling but overall full of quality,” was the comment.
The win came just a fortnight after Medvedev gave an interview to Eurosport in which he labelled Kyrgios “strange” amongst other things.”
“Kyrgios behaves in a controversial way but in a slightly different way. Many guys are friends with him, I am not, we never spoke to each other closely,” Medvedev said.
“In life, he is a normal way but on the court, he has a strange behaviour.
“Sometimes he does not want to play tennis and sometimes he expects from himself such an easy win that when it is not that easy, starts behaving that way.
“When he starts playing with worse opponents he starts showing knee pain. Because he does not want to show that for him it’s difficult to play with that opponent. I think I do not have his attitude, but if I will have it, people will hate me more than Kyrgios.”
In winning Kyrgios booked himself a second-round match with Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud.
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