Teenage tennis sensation Nick Kyrgios came within a rant of US Open disqualification in a stormy first round win over Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny.
Kyrgios, the man who famously sent Rafael Nadal careering out of Wimbledon this year, picked up three code violations in his gruelling 7-5 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 7-6 (7-1) over the 21st seeded Youzhny, a semi-finalist in 2006 and 2010.
When he collected his third early in the fourth set after a series of rowdy outbursts, he was just another warning away from being kicked out.
He smashed a ball out of the stadium in frustration in the second set, then dropped the F-bomb before the chair umpire issued a game penalty for another audible obscenity.
“I guess it was just heat of the moment,” said world No 60 Kyrgios, a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon.
“I was frustrated the way I was playing, and, yeah, it was just all that sort of stuff. It was just an outburst, and hopefully I will be able to control that the next time I play.”
Kyrgios fired 26 aces and 68 winners against Youzhny and next meets experienced Italian Andreas Seppi.
He said his outbursts on court are all part of having high expectations. “I have been an emotional player most of my career. Maybe I will be able to manage it in the future. It’s a work in progress. It’s something that’s always been there.”
Youzhny had beaten Nadal and fellow former Open champions and world No 1s Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt in past visits to Flushing Meadows and only two weeks ago stopped the extraordinary giant-killing run of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Cincinnati.
But the world No 23 had no answer to Kyrgios’s awesome firepower as the Australian crunched 26 aces and 68 winners in the four-set demolition job on Show Court 17.
Apart from overcoming Youzhny’s class and vast experience, Kyrgios defied searing heat, a nagging left arm injury and three code violations to join fellow Australians Matt Ebden and Anastastia Rodionova in the second round.
Ebden beat German Tobias Kamke 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-2), while Rodionova surprised rising Italian Camila Giorgi 1-6 7-5 6-3 on a superb three-from-three opening day for Australia.
But 19-year-old Kyrgios stole much of the attention with his antics but had to seek treatment in both the first and third sets to have the forearm that supports his two-handed backhand vigorously rubbed.
But somehow he still managed to prevail against one of the most seasoned players on tour.
Kyrgios took the opening set after claiming the only service break in the 11th game.
After nervously coughing up his first two double-faults of the match when serving for it at 6-5 and 40-love, Kyrgios steadied to close out the set with an unreturnable serve.
Australia’s Wimbledon quarter-finalist unleashed a stinging backhand return to break Youzhny in the first game of the second set and had two further chances points to seize a double break at 3-1.
The let-off could have been costly as the Russian reeled off three straight games to lead 5-4, only for Kyrgios to calmly recover from 15-30 down to level at 5-5.
Kyrgios took control of the tiebreaker, opening up a 5-1 advantage before pocketing the set for a two-sets-to-love lead with a massive ace followed by another unreturnable delivery.
The youngster lapsed to drop serve twice as Youzhny grabbed the third set and then appeared poised to push the match to a deciding fifth set.
But after digging in to save set points serving at 4-5 in a marathon 10th game, Kyrgios broke the Russian for a third time with a clean backhand winner down the line.
Showing maturity beyond his years, Kyrgios raced through the fourth-set tiebreaker 7-1 to clinch victory after three hours and three minutes.
While Youzhny is no Nadal, the 32-year-old entered the match with credentials and form.
His recent success over Tsonga came the week after the Frenchman had taken down Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer in consecutive matches to win the Toronto Masters.
Kyrgios’ impressive victory also came a year after Youzhny denied his Davis Cup teammate a place in the quarter-finals with a dogged five-set comeback win over Hewitt.