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Nick Kyrgios opted to skip the Tokyo Olympics for fears the bubble environment wouldn't be conducive to his best tennis - but his exploits on the US hardcourt swing haven't paid off either.
After admitting he often wondered whether it would be worth retiring from tournament to tournament, Kyrgios simply didn't have it in the first round of the Citi Open in Washington D.C.
Kyrgios appeared somewhat frustrated but didn't succumb to what some might consider a 'typical' outburst - something he confessed after the game might have been required to sufficiently fire him up.
Instead, he went down to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4 6-4, with one underhand serve the only taste of Kyrgios's individual flare the crowd witnessed.
Speaking to media after the game, Kyrgios lamented his lack of energy.
"I don't know what it is. I don't know what to say. I don't know how to feel. I just don't feel as if I'm in the moment as I used to be, I guess," Kyrgios said.
"I feel like I actually enjoyed my tennis more when it was so up and down. Like you see me today - like, I'm losing and I'm barely getting angry.
"I actually miss the days when I was losing and I was carrying on and I was getting fined and I was throwing my rackets."
Nick Kyrgios said he was "not feeling the severity of the points" in tonight's 1R loss to McDonald and that he's "disappointed" in his performance: "I know that I'm going to be dealing with a lot of shit now on social media. Like, my head's in the shed, to be honest." pic.twitter.com/c0lSaByB90
— Kelyn Soong (@KelynSoong) August 4, 2021
Despite questioning his own motivations afterwards, Kyrgios appeared to be quite chipper throughout the match, even continuing his recent habit of requesting fan advice as to where to place his serves.
He hinted that perhaps the firebrand of old, which was determined to be as prickly towards opponents as possible, might need to return in some way shape or form for him to reach the heights many believe he can.
"Now I lose and I'm actually happy for the other guy," he said.
"Back then, I couldn't stand the other guy."
Nick Kyrgios headlines Aussie day of disaster at Citi Open
Kyrgios was both entertaining - chatting with fans between points to ask where he should direct his booming serves - and effective when he won the title in the US capital in 2019, beating a couple of guys who have reached grand slam finals this year, Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals and Daniil Medvedev in the final.
There wasn't much of the customary Kyrgios animation at all on Tuesday, even under the lights and with a mostly full arena in which spectators offered plenty of shouts of "Come on, Nick!"
Kyrgios wasted little time before points, often tossing the ball in the air with 19 or 20 seconds still on the 25-second serve clock, or during them, going for quick-strike shots early in exchanges and often missing the mark.
When it ended, he plopped himself down on his sideline seat and shook his head.
The former world No.13 is now ranked 77th after playing just five tournaments in 2021, for a 7-5 win-loss record.
"Ultimately, like, I know I can't be too hard on myself. I haven't played a lot of matches or any of that type of stuff. ... I played pretty average. My body feels pretty average," the 26-year-old Kyrgios said.
The Kyrgios upset added to a poor day for Australia in Washington, with Alexei Popyrin, Jordan Thompson and James Duckworth also exiting.
Wildcard entry Brandon Nakashima, on his 20th birthday, celebrated a 6-3 6-3 win over this year's Singapore title winner Popyrin.
Thompson coughed up a one-set lead to go down to Swedish qualifier Elias Ymer 3-6 7-6 6-3 while Duckworth fell to Tennys Sandgren 6-3 2-6 6-2.
Australia's hopes now lie with Alex de Minaur and John Millman, who have byes into the second round as seeded players.
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