Nick Kyrgios ousted by Karen Khachanov in US Open quarter-final

Nick Kyrgios’ quest for his first Grand Slam title will have to wait.

The world number 25 came out on the wrong side of a grueling home-and-away match that started on Tuesday and ended on Wednesday against Russia’s Karen Khachanov on Arthur Ashe.

After falling 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6 in the three-hour, 39-minute match, Kyrgios, seeded No. 23 at the US Open , launched a crisis after the loss. He slammed and smashed two racquets on the pitch – breaking both – before leaving the stadium. He also smashed and broke a racquet during the game.

With this victory, Khachanov, 27th seed, qualifies for the first time in the semi-finals of a slam. He will face number 5 Casper Ruud on Friday for a place in the title match.

“I did it,” he said during his on-court interview. “I did it guys.

“It was a crazy game. I expected it to be like this. We played almost four hours, it’s the only way to beat Nick, I think.

Kyrgios, who calmed down after the game, gave credit to Khachanov for the victory.

“I’m obviously devastated,” Kyrgios said. “But all credit to Karen. He’s a fighter. He’s a warrior. I think he served really well today. Honestly probably the best server I’ve played this tournament to be honest the way he was hitting his spots under pressure.

The fourth set proved the most compelling as it saw ups and downs from both players. Kyrgios double faulted on the last point of game six to let Khachanov level the 3-3 level, but he also slammed an ace on the last point of game eight to tie the set 4-4. Although he played down his mistakes for most of the game, Khachanov trailed 3-0 after losing a 25-shot rally and was largely disappointing in the tiebreaker.

Khachanov simply played a tighter game, committing just 31 unforced errors compared to Kyrgios’ 58 flagrant. He also converted four of eight break points, while Kyrgios got two of nine.

“He just played the big points well,” Kyrgios said. “There was really nothing in it. I’m just devastated obviously. I just feel like it was either winning it all or nothing at all, to be honest. I feel like I failed this event right now. That’s how it feels.

Mercurial Nick Kyrgios suffered a tough five-set US Open quarter-final loss to Karen Khachanov (inset).
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After trading the first 10 games of the first set, Khachanov took a 6-5 lead behind four straight aces. And when a double fault from Kyrgios pushed Khachanov for the set point, the Aussie tried to come to the net at the next point before Khachanov fired one into the far corner to secure the set.

Kyrgios then needed medical time off to treat his left leg. This obviously bothered Kyrios, who was not playing with his usual aggressiveness and repeatedly reached for his left knee while grimacing during the first set.

“I can’t walk,” Kyrgios said as he called a trainer. “I can’t walk without pain, it’s too much.”

After the match, Kyrgios played down the injury somewhat.

“Just knee hurts,” he said. Obviously, I have played a lot of tennis in recent months. …I just took it a step in two and just tweaked it a bit. I ended up feeling good. I had a deep heat on it. Everyone’s wearing a little niggle right now. Nothing major.”

The coach rubbed cream on his calf, massaged it thoroughly just below his knee and Kyrgios came back for the second set. In his first service game, however, Kyrgios turned to his box and expressed with some loud swearing that he didn’t want to play through the injury.

Kyrgios told reporters after the defeat "I feel like I've let so many people down."
Kyrgios told reporters after the loss “I feel like I let so many people down.”
Nick Kyrgios slams his racket in frustration after his US Open quarter-final loss.
Nick Kyrgios slams his racket in frustration after his US Open quarter-final loss.

“Honestly, I feel like shit,” Kyrgios said after the game. “I feel like I let so many people down.”

It was a highly anticipated game for many reasons. While their head-to-head record was one game per play heading into Tuesday night’s quarter-final match, the most memorable showdown between Kyrgios and Khachanov took place on Twitter in 2020. Kyrgios publicly criticized some tennis stars during the pandemic, in particular Novak Djokovic – whose unvaccinated status prevented him from participating in the Open – for his organization of the Adria Tour.

As well as calling the Serb’s actions ‘bone-headed’, Kyrgios later called Khachanov an ‘absolute pelican’ during the social media spat.

On the pitch, these two also had some very entertaining battles. Their most notable match came at the 2020 Australian Open, where Kyrgios triumphed in a five-set thriller, which saw four tie-breaks. Khachanov won the other encounter at the Cincinnati Masters in 2019, when Kyrgios imploded in three sets and crowned him with a spit in the direction of chair umpire Fergus Murphy.

Nick Kyrgios slams his racquet during his quarter-final match.
Nick Kyrgios slams his racquet during his quarter-final match.

There was no spitting in this one, but Kyrgios was his usual rambunctious self. His emotions were further heightened by the injury and some unruly fans, culminating in an unsportsmanlike conduct warning after he threw away his water bottle after the third set.

But none of this bothered Khachanov.

“I was ready,” Khachanov said of the atmosphere during his press conference. “I expected the crowd to be more for him, for him to be the favorite in their eyes. I don’t get upset about that.

“It’s like one more step forward,” added Khachanov. “I’m really, really happy that I was able to do it. I also had to face and beat Nick, who is playing some of the best tennis again.


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