Sports Tennis 21 Jan 2020 Bushfire crisis cool ...

Bushfire crisis cools Kyrgios' notorious temper

AFP
Published Jan 21, 2020, 8:41 pm IST
Updated Jan 21, 2020, 8:41 pm IST
The Australian has been at the forefront of raising money for the nationwide firefighting effort
Australia's Nick Kyrgios reacts after winning point against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego during their first round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP)
 Australia's Nick Kyrgios reacts after winning point against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego during their first round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP)

Melbourne: Australian tennis firebrand Kyrgios said Tuesday that his country's bushfire disaster ha made him realise there are more important things than getting mad on a tennis court.

Long a polarising figure for his on-court antics, the enigmatic 24-year-old has won new fans for his efforts to mobilise support for victims of the deadly blazes, and he has been welcomed at the Australian Open by huge roars.

 

He thrived in the Melbourne Arena atmosphere, grinding down Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/1) to book a second round berth.

Kyrgios said ahead of the tournament he was finding it hard to concentrate on his home Grand Slam after the emotions sparked by the fires that have devastated huge tracts of Australia.

"I'm just playing for a lot more than myself. I feel like I'm playing for a lot of people."

Kyrgios was a driving force in drumming up fundraising efforts for the bushfire recovery, including a 'Rally for Relief' exhibition match which collected more than Aus$5.0 million (US$3.4 million).

The controversial figure, who was handed a 16-week suspended ban in September after a series of outbursts, said the whole experience had given him pause for thought.

"I guess it's just a perspective thing, isn't it?" he said. "Why am I really getting mad on the tennis court with everything going on? "

McEnroe praise

Kyrgios and Sonego were locked at 2-2 in the first set before the Australian claimed a first break and then motored through his next service game, dropping one point on Sonego's next serve to open a 5-2 lead before sealing the set.

With Kyrgios not facing a single break point, television commentator John McEnroe lavished praise on his booming serve -- and also pledged Aus$1,000 to the bushfire fund for every set the Australian wins.

"He has actually got one of the best serves I've ever seen," said the tennis legend. "Top 10, ever. He has got pop. He can do anything with it."

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