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Off-court racket drives bad boy Kyrgios to distraction

By Paul Newman

Nick Kyrgios' Australian Open ended in typically confrontational fashion here yesterday as the 20-year-old home player conducted a running battle with the umpire during his 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 third-round defeat to Tomas Berdych.

While Berdych was a model of focus and concentration, ignoring everything that was happening on the other side of the net, Kyrgios seemed almost permanently distracted.

He talked to the crowd, gestured to his entourage, threw a ball at the overhead "spider cam" camera, bounced his racket on the floor and clashed with the British umpire, James Keothavong.

Perhaps Kyrgios recalled the fact that Keothavong was in charge of his controversial match against Richard Gasquet at Wimbledon last summer, when he appeared to give up in one game and complained when the official told him to hurry up when he was changing his socks.

This time Kyrgios protested about music which he thought was coming from the crowd, though it may have drifted over from the adjacent Melbourne Cricket Ground, where a Twenty20 match was being played.

"Mate, it's a circus," Kyrgios told Keothavong, demanding to know why the umpire was not calling for quiet. "You really know how to control a match, buddy."

On the final point Kyrgios' first serve was called out, upon which the Australian walked forward to look at the ball's mark. Keothavong, who is regarded by many as one of the sport's best umpires, asked him if he wanted to challenge the call, to which Kyrgios replied: "Mate, give me a break."

Kyrgios missed his second serve, too, handing the victory to Berdych on a double-fault. "You're a terrible referee," the world No 30 said as he offered Keothavong the briefest of handshakes before walking off the court.

"The ref was telling me he couldn't hear it," Kyrgios said afterwards.

"I could blatantly hear it. So unless you can start playing tennis when there's music in the background, that's a new rule. They need to add it to the rule book."

Kyrgios was disappointed with the result and thought he should have won.

"I just put a lot of pressure on myself," he said. "I was expecting a bit more out of myself. I don't know. I was expecting another real deep run. I put a lot of work in. It's pretty heart-breaking."

On reflection Kyrgios thought his biggest mistake had been to take the match too seriously. "I'm so disappointed because I put so much work in and I just feel like I let a lot of people down," he said. "Maybe I walked out there trying to focus too much on what I had to do. I probably should just go out there and try to enjoy myself, have fun, not take it so seriously."

Berdych, who now plays Roberto Bautista Agut after the Spaniard beat Marin Cilic in straight sets, said: "I just tried to focus on myself and not really look over the net. The only thing you need to see is the ball. That's the only thing I was really focusing on."

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who are seeded to meet in the semi-finals, both continued to make good progress. Djokovic beat Andreas Seppi 6-1, 7-5, 7-6, while Federer secured his 300th victory in Grand Slam tournaments when he beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

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