Nick Kyrgios said he hopes he “never again” has to face his good friend, Thanasi Kokkinakis, at a Grand Slam after his first-round victory at the US Open, while Stefanos Tsitsipas sensationally crashed out in his opener.
It was a straightforward victory for Kyrgios as he swept past Kokkinakis in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 7-6(4), and he will now be able to take on opponents with more relish in New York.
Perhaps surprisingly, the duo – who customarily play doubles together, winning their home Australian Open back in January – were meeting for the first time ever in a tour singles match, and it was clear for all to see how Kyrgios did not enjoy facing his compatriot on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
But the No. 23 seed put those feelings aside to advance through to the second round at Flushing Meadows where he will face Benjamin Bonzi, who claimed a five-set victory over fellow Frenchman Ugo Humbert, 7-6(1), 6-1, 5-7, 3-6, 6-2.
“When we both saw the draw, it was a nightmare, honestly,” Kyrgios said of facing Kokkinakis.
“We never want to play each other. I’ve just got so much respect for him. I can’t wait to get out there and play doubles with him on the right side of the net. We just know each other’s games like the back of our hand. We’ve played together since we were about nine years old. He knows my game well. I know his game extremely well. I just played the bigger points well early on. We’re going to play each other, hopefully, never again.”
Kyrgios has been tipped to make another strong run in New York after his incredible exploits at Wimbledon where only now seven-time champion Novak Djokovic could halt his progress in the final.
As for Tsitsipas, it was a disastrous evening for the Greek as he slumped to a 6-0 6-1 3-6 7-5 defeat to Colombian qualifier Daniel Elahi Galan.
Remarkably, the fourth seed capitulated to a 6-0 5-0 scoreline early on and won just seven total points in the opening set as he struggled to get any feel or rhythm with his groundstrokes.
It took nine match points for the Colombian to close out a famous victory, but he did in the end to leave the fans on Louis Armstrong Stadium utterly stunned by not just the result, but also the one-sided nature of the match.
“He dominated the match,” Tsitsipas said post-match. “I just couldn’t get into it.”
Galan was unsurprisingly delighted: “Definitely one of the best moments of my career.
“Definitely the best match of my career, not only because of the circumstances, but also the opponent. I’m really happy.”
What Nick Kyrgios was texting Thanasi Kokkinakis ‘minutes before’ US Open match
Nick Kyrgios was texting Thanasi Kokkinkis memes minutes before their US Open clash which the world No 25 won in straight sets. The two Australian stars are close friends and usually compete together in doubles competitions, however, they were drawn against each other for the first round in New York.
The Wimbledon finalist comfortably prevailed in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory to progress to the second round of the final major tournament of the year. It was their first ever meeting in a singles arena making it a strange experience for the doubles partners.
Kokkinakis has said he struggled to take the match seriously due to his close friendship with Kyrgios. After the match he said they were both joking so much in the locker room that it was hard to get pumped up for the match. Kyrgios was even sending him memes minutes before they entered the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It was hard to get fired up, hard to get excited about the game,” he explained. “In the locker room, we were already talking nonsense. Nick sent me ‘memes five minutes before the match, so when you enter the court, it’s hard to be excited.
Nick Kyrgios beat his close friend Thanasi Kokkinakis in the US Open (Image: GETTY)
“We compete, of course, but it’s hard to have that inner fire. I couldn’t have my usual intensity, it felt like a practice match. It was frustrating, I know I can play better.”
Kyrgios also did not enjoy the victory, describing it as the most uncomfortable of his career. He had been unhappy as soon as the draw was made, knowing it would be a ‘nightmare’ having to play someone so close to him.
“That was probably one of the most uncomfortable matches I’ve played in my career,” he admitted. “When we both saw the draw, it was a nightmare, honestly. I feel like there’s probably two players – two or three players – that after tennis I’m probably going to stay in contact with till I probably die, to be honest.
“Thanasi is one of them. It’s just really hard. [Trying to block out my opponent] kind of helped me.