A whiff of controversy: Nick Kyrgios complains about the smell of marijuana during US Open win over Benjamin Ponzi

Hot heads, pot heads, and screeching beer. It resumes as the kind of vibrant New York scene that Nick Kyrgios usually thrives on in court. But he puts a racket in his hand and things get unpredictable, as the case once again proved for the Australian at the US Open on Wednesday before finding his groove late in the party.

For a long time during his 7-6, (7-3) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Benjamin Ponzi at Louis Armstrong Stadium, the Wimbledon finalist struggled to get his best. This was more due to the tenacity and steadfastness of his poker-faced rival, who held back his emotions as the Australian’s mood soured.

“I was literally hanging by a thread. His level today was amazing,” Kyrgios said. “I wasn’t expecting an absolute method. I played some really risky tennis in the fourth set to qualify.”

In a surreal moment, Canberran complained to referee Jaume Campistol about the smell of marijuana that drifted onto the court as his opponent raised the pressure late in the second set. The Australian was right, too, because the weeds were easy to smell. At one point, Campstoll asked fans to refrain from smoking around the court which holds a strong festive atmosphere.

Kyrgios said he had asthma and was aware the fumes might bother him. “People don’t know [it but] “I’m very asthmatic,” he said. “When I run side by side, I find it hard to breathe, [so it is] Probably not something I want to breathe in between the dots.”

The Louis Armstrong Stadium, which is located about two kilometers from the place where the famous musician who took his name on the court for 28 years of his life has resided, differs from the usual in tennis. Kyrgios is regularly accused of creating a court circus, but sitting at Armstrong Stadium feels akin to attending a carnival, especially as sunny days extend into hot summer nights.

The award-winning renovation, which reopened in 2018, features an open court between the lower terrace and nosebleed section creating a unique aura. Improved ventilation is great for fans on hot summer days, but the breeze can be more difficult for tennis players trying to throw shots at a five-cent piece.

The movement of people in the lobby is constant and so is the loud hum of conversations taking place in the beer lines and food queues at nearby restaurants. All this makes the usual rules of silence and sitting through a point almost irrelevant. There is a lot going on. For someone with Kyrgios’ penchant for distraction, the cumulative effect of the various elements adds degrees of difficulty to the task of winning the match.

If he could squabble during a great Wimbledon final where interacting with a fan there created legal trouble for him, this was definitely an environment that would challenge him. He said the atmosphere was unique on the field. “I feel like Wimbledon was very appropriate. [The] The Australian Open, you kind of expect to be there, being Australian,” he said. “But here, it’s just noisy. Point, point, I can hardly hear. Half the time, I can’t even hear my team because it’s so loud all the time.

“At Armstrong today, when I hear trains and people, for someone struggling to focus in my career, I really try to put my head down and play point by point, trying to pull myself out of certain situations. It’s hard because there are so many distractions. Obviously, A lot of harassment happens too. People say things. I have to be very careful what I say these days.”

Kyrgios plays a shot between his legs. Photo: Javier Garcia/Rex/Shutterstock

There were moments of magic. Ponzi finished two points on the field, detaching from his racket, as he rushed for shots by Kyrgios passing in the first set of the tiebreak. The 23rd seed, who plays American wildcard JJ Wolf in the third round on Friday, hasn’t served as well as he has during the most consistent season of his career. But Kyrgios managed 30 aces, some at critical times, and also provided some quick serve when he faced several break points in the closing stages of the fourth set.

There were sad moments. Spitting on the field after dropping serve at 4 – all in the third set was less than desirable, so he surprised him by scolding his longtime fans. Part of his frustration stems from rising expectations. Having reached the Wimbledon final, he is now believed to be able to compete in every discipline he plays if he is at his best.

“It has made life more stressful. In every tournament I play, I expect to play great tennis.” “Compared to last year…I feel like I’m playing some of the best tennis of my life and that’s because of a lot of things, but I’m happy.”

Bonzi was a stubborn enemy and gave Kyrgios a test that would sharpen his form. The Frenchman is a year younger than him, but did not move up the ranks until last year when he won six championships on the Challenger Tour. A long period in the secondary ranks strengthened him. He took the fight to Kyrgios, refusing to be discouraged after losing the first two sets, but would regret the chances he sought begging in the fourth set.

Kyrgios lives to fight again. If he defeats Wolff, he could play the role of world number 1 ranked Daniil Medvedev. It will be the men’s championship match so far.

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