Nick Kyrgios bounced on to Court One and sat on his chair. He flirted with the crowd, he grabbed his phone. And then he noticed he’d forgotten his tennis shoes.
‘For one minute I thought I was a professional,’ he smiled down the camera. Wimbledon’s circus of choice was back underway.
An hour later, the Australian trudged back to that same seat and pulled those very shoes from his feet. The show was over.
Nick Kyrgios has withdrawn from Wimbledon after sustaining an abdominal injury
Kyrgios can’t hide his despair after retiring from his match against Felix Auger-Aliassime
The Australian was in obvious pain with every serve as he struggled through the second set
That’s the problem with being a ‘part-time player’ – the body cannot bluff its way through the grind of Grand Slam tennis.
No matter your talent or the contents of your box of tricks. And so Kyrgios’ thrilling run to the third round ended in agony after damaged abdominal muscles left him lame.
‘It’s getting worse and worse,’ he said before shaking the hand of Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The crowd rose to salute its crocked jester. The No 16 seed breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Kyrgios dropped to the floor and had to receive treatment before the end of the opening set
Before he could kick-off the third set against Auger-Aliassime, the Australian conceded
For a while, once an official had fetched his shoes from the locker room, Kyrgios was at his brilliantly, barmy best.
He admitted to struggling physically even before this match and there was early cause for concern when the 26-year-old nursed his shoulder after the very first point. But that pain subsided and soon issues swelled across the net.
Auger-Aliassime, Canada’s brilliant 20-year-old, seemed tight – discombobulated, even – amid the am-dram unfolding at the other end.
Kyrgios’ first underarm serve was followed by a huge ace; his changing pace and angles earned three breaks of serve in set one. But then, with Kyrgios leading 4-2, the physio emerged from behind the curtain. The Australian still broke but soon he was receiving a massage to his stomach.
Kyrgios was up to his usual tricks despite his injury, but was forced to bow-out eventually
By set two, his face was frozen in a grimace – preening peacock had become sitting duck as Kyrgios patted down serves of around 100mph. Auger-Aliassime soon levelled the match and that signalled the end – of Kyrgios’ run in the singles and almost certainly his foray into mixed doubles with Venus Williams.
‘I tried to play as long as I could, I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more,’ Kyrgios told the crowd before turning to his opponent, now in a first Wimbledon fourth round.
‘You’ll see a lot of him in the future – and he’s better looking!’
One final laugh, followed by one final cheer as Kyrgios left the court in the same basketball shoes he’d worn an hour earlier.
‘Playing out here and having this support has made me maybe have a second wind,’ he added. ‘I’m going to come back and play for a bit longer, I reckon.’
The charismatic Australian had forgotten his tennis shoes before Saturday’s third-round match