By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – A first match between Nick Kyrgios and Dustin Brown, rather like a scientist mixing together two volatile elements in a flask, always had the potential for something quite spectacular.
So it proved as two of the world’s most unpredictable tennis players cooked up a five-set cocktail of whacky shot-making that had a sell-out Court Two crowd spellbound at Wimbledon on Friday.
Sparks flew and the textbook was shredded during two hours and six minutes of tennis, the like of which occasionally bordered on the kind of ‘hit and giggle’ fayre served up at exhibition events, not a second-round match at the most traditional of grand slam tournaments.
Incredibly, they rattled through five sets in two hours and six minutes, 15th seed Kyrgios prevailing 6-7(3) 6-1 2-6 6-4 6-4 to set up a third-round clash with Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.
It was tennis, but not as we know it.
Brown, the dreadlocked Jamaican-German who bamboozled twice champion Rafael Nadal with his serve and volley game in a second-round shock last year, conjured several contenders for shot of the tournament — including an audacious between the legs drop-shot that defied belief.
For his part, Australian Kyrgios, a quarter-finalist on his debut appearance in 2014 when he also demolished Nadal, produced a mixture of sublime winners, meltdowns and histrionics which earned him a code violation for swearing.
“Don’t spoil it Nick,” one of his entourage said at the start of the third set, by which time a previously sanguine Kyrgios was beginning to boil after American umpire Jake Garner deemed he had failed to scoop up a Brown drop volley.
“I’ll spoil it if I want to,” Kyrgios retorted before dropping serve in the second game of the third set and directing a stream of invective towards his support team.
His frustration was partly due to Brown’s unorthodox brilliance, the vest-top wearing wildcard’s tricks for once leaving maverick Kyrgios in the shade.
“He hit one through the legs dropshot, made me feel horrendous. He was hitting volleys that are spinning back over (his side),” Kyrgios told a news conference which ended in a farce when he became involved in an argument with a reporter.
“There were times out there where you literally don’t want to play. You just want to put the racket down.
“He’s going to hit jumping backhands that are going to hit the fence, but then he’s going to hit three of the greatest volleys that you’ve ever seen.
“He’s a great athlete and a good guy as well.”
The first set was almost conventional, Brown snatching a tiebreak with a dazzling forehand winner.
Kyrgios took the second in 19 minutes but then went AWOL in the third, thumping one forehand so hard it hit the backstop behind Brown with the ball still rising.
Chuntering continually and appearing not to care, he slammed a second serve long to gift Brown a two sets to one lead.
“Stop acting like a baby” one fan called out.
Kyrgios re-focussed to take the fourth set and his undoubted class told as he moved 40-0 ahead on Brown’s serve in the seventh game of the decider.
Brown saved all the break points, one with an improvised overhead drop shot, but, after a rain delay took the heat out of the match, Kyrgios returned to break and wrap up the win.
“Nothing to be upset about,” the 31-year-old Brown said. “Obviously would have liked to win, but in our sport there is no draw. That’s what it is.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)