Alexander Zverev’s preparations for the Australian Open got off to an inauspicious start at the ATP Cup, with a surprise loss to Australia’s Alex de Minaur.
The German world number 7 fell to de Minaur 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, with the 22-year-old smashing his racquet in frustration after giving away the second set tiebreaker.
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His courtside meltdown foreshadowed the deciding set, which the Australian world number 18 won handily.
“That’s almost a sulking pout,” Channel 9 commentator Todd Woodbridge said.
“This’ll be shattering to his confidence.”
Making matters worse for Zverev were the courtside antics of Nick Kyrgios, who had earlier defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 7-6.
Kyrgios was clearly determined to irritate Zverev, doing push-ups every time Zverev double-faulted throughout the match.
When asked about Kyrgios after the loss, Zverev played a straight bat.
“What do you want me to say? It’s Nick. It’s just what he does," Zverev said.
“He does that at Laver Cup as well.
“I know that Grigor (Dimitrov) also had a fight with him and Jack (Sock) in 2018.
“He can do whatever he wants.
“If he wants to do push-ups that’s fine, as long as he doesn’t offend anybody or do the Nick Kyrgios stuff that he sometimes does, I don’t care about it."
Kyrgios breaks down over bushfire disaster
Friday evening wasn’t all fun and games for Kyrgios, with the tennis bad-boy showing a rare glimpse of his softer side after defeating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 7-6.
Kyrgios was asked about his fundraising efforts for Australia’s bushfire disaster, having earlier pledged to donate $200 for every ace he hits during the Cup.
He was overcome with emotion during the interview, saying what was going on around the country was ‘bigger than tennis’.
“I don't really care about the praise too much,” Kyrgios said, briefly apologising as he teared up.
“We've got the ability and the platform to do something.
“My home town is Canberra and we've got the most toxic air in the world at the moment, that's pretty sad. It's tough.
“It's all going to all the families, firefighters, animals, everyone who is losing homes, losing families… it's a real thing.
“It's bigger than tennis."