Nick Kyrgios just lost what seemed like the unloseable match to world number 89, Andreas Seppi of Italy, in the second round of the Australian Open.
Seppi won 1-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 10-8 in a match that was just so, so weird. How weird? This weird.
That was the "tweener" shot Kyrgios played while his opponent served for the match in the fifth set. He did not need to play it. It was impossibly improbable. Why? Why play that shot mid rally for no apparent reason? Because Nick Kyrgios, that's why.
As it happened, Kyrgios won the game in which he played that bizarre shot. He broke Seppi's serve and kept the match alive. But eventually, he lost. In fact he lost to two men. One was the Italian. The other, as so often is the case, was himself.
Kyrgios had a seemingly effortless Australian Open first round win, and the 21-year-old started no less impressively in this match. It looked like another easy win was on the cards early, but oh, how this match changed.
The Canberran took the first set 6-1, his power game too much for the 32-year-old to handle. In the fifth game of the first set he was down 0-40, but fought back to saved three break points. This was calm, measured Nick Kyrgios at his best -- a Kyrgios many once-a-year fans won't have seen much.
The famously fiery temper was nowhere to be seen either early on, in another echo of Kyrgios' first round match. But this would change by the end of the third set.
The Australian, at 193cm, was just two centimetres taller than his 191cm opponent, but he looked considerably taller with those long, gangly legs. He looked more powerful too. Seppi's the sort of guy who pushes it around and waits for mistakes. Early on, Kyrgios made very few indeed.
In the second set, Seppi stepped it up (and if you can say "Seppi stepped it" five times quickly without tripping over your tongue, you win).
The Italian made just three unforced errors en route to a tie-breaker as every game was won on serve. Kyrgios was forced to earn every point. But he was up to it.
Down 4-5 and 15-30, he momentarily looked in trouble. But Kyrgios pulled out two big serves, as you sensed he would. These weren't booming aces, but they did the trick. There was such an assuredness about Kyrgios under pressure. Who needs a coach?
The tone of the tennis changed a little in the tie-breaker. Gone was what Jim Courier called "bang- 'em up" tennis. Suddenly there was a 23 shot rally, then a 25 shot rally. Kyrgios won both points, proving he can be patient and strategic as well as powerful.
Kyrgios won the tie-breaker comfortably 7-1 to take a two set lead. The highlight was a lovely backhand drive down the line which put him up 5-1 up.
In the eighth game of the third set, we saw our first glimpse for this 2017 Australian Open of foul-mouthed Nick Kyrgios. He earned himself a code violation for some fruity language. It was 4-4 after that game.
In the next game, Kyrgios lost his serve for the first time at the tournament. As his mind unravelled, so did his game. Down 30-40, he missed his first serve. He hit a typically hard second serve, but Seppi hit a beautiful forehand winner.
Cue the second piece of Kyrgios belligerence for the evening in the form of a racquet slammed against the ground in disgust.
Kyrgios conceded a point penalty for his second code violation (the swearing and the racquet slam), meaning Seppi started the next game 15-0 as he served for the set. And just like that, Seppi served out the game and the set, winning it 6-4.
Two sets to one.
The match was now getting interesting now for all the usual Nick Kyrgios reasons. And it soon got worse for the Australian, with Seppi breaking him in the first game of the fourth set. The Italian broke again and soon served out the set 6-2.
And just like that, it was 2-2 after barely two hours of tennis.
"It's a weird vibe in the room. The crowd is doing everything to lift him, but he's not embracing it at all," Jim Courier said of Kyrgios after the Aussie won the first game of the final set.
"I'm scratching my head trying to work out what's going on."
While Courier was scratching his head, Kyrgios was shaking his, refusing to work with the crowd even as they applauded him for hitting an ace. Again and again, he shook his head even after hitting good shots. A weird vibe indeed.
The crowd was so behind their man, they even booed when a lucky Seppi shot dribbled over the net. Who's ever heard a tennis crowd boo a piece of good luck? Normally you'd hear an anguished "oohhhh" rather than a "boooo". But that's how much the crowd love Kyrgios. They were the tennis equivalent of a football crowd. Yet still Kyrgios couldn't work with it. His body language was bizarre.
And the weirder things got, the more you could sense everyone but the diehards turning against Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios won the ninth game with a second serve ace. Seppi hit back to make it 5-5. And then, perhaps the weirdest moment yet on a night of great weirdness.
On a Kyrgios second serve, Seppi's return arced harmlessly towards the baseline. Kyrgios left it. The ball landed in. In a way, this was the emblematic moment of the match. It was there for Kyrgios to take but he kind of just let it go.
Seppi was serving for the match. But there was a twist. Because of course there was. Kyrgios broke back, but only after he hit that ridiculous tweener we mentioned above.
Then it was Kyrgios' turn to pressure his opponent. He had a match point at 8-7 but Seppi hit a clean forehand winner. 8-8.
And then, disaster. At 30-40 in the 17th game of the set, Kyrgios served a double fault. As he always does, he went for a booming second serve. This one missed, One had to eventually.
That made it 9-8. And Seppi closed out the match. And everyone was shocked. Still is.
Credit must go to the Italian but let's be straight about this: If Nick Kyrgios hadn't mentally clocked off halfway through, he would have won in three sets.
Kyrgios seemed to be plagued by some sort of physical discomfort. He kept gesticulating towards his fitness trainer as though to complain about something. But the story of this match is Nick Kyrgios losing his head. We ask again: who needs a coach?
"I think it's mental. The mental side of things is big for me. That's where a coach would be good," Kyrgios admitted in his post-match press conference, when asked whether he put the loss down to physical or mental issues.
You don't say.Suggest a correction