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Australian Open fans are lamenting the absence of Nick Kyrgios this year after his 2022 exploits, but the star feared being thrown out of the tournament midway through. Kyrgios, 27, claimed to be ‘devastated’ this month when he confirmed a knee injury had ruled him out of the first Grand Slam of the year, just 12 months after he wowed crowds at the event.
Kyrgios won his maiden major title, albeit in doubles, with friend and compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis. Their successful run at Albert Park caught the imagination of the home fans, culminating in a final win over fellow Aussies Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell.
But their campaign wasn’t without its flashpoints, least of all in their quarter final clash with Tim Puetz and Michael Venus. After a let was called on a serve by partner Kokkinakis, opponent Venus chipped the ball back and Kyrgios casually smacked a volley into the ground – only to see the ball bounce up and hit a boy watching in the packed KIA Arena.
Immediately, minds turned to the controversy that surrounded Novak Djokovic at the 2020 US Open 16 months earlier. The then world No 1 was infamously thrown out of the tournament after accidentally but violently striking a ball into the throat of line judge Laura Clarke.
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To his credit, Kyrgios immediately raised his hand in apology and put his hand on his mouth. As umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore went to check on the boy, the Canberra man then made a touching gesture, offering a racquet as an apology to huge cheers from the crowd.
“I saw it heading towards the kid and I thought: ‘Oh no, I am getting defaulted’,” the relieved 2022 Wimbeldon finalist told Channel Nine afterwards. “I was glad he was ok and I gave him the racquet.”
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Tennis players being disqualified in such circumstances is rare, but there are other high-profile examples. Tim Henman was defaulted from Wimbledon in 1995 when he hit a ball girl with a ball hit in anger while playing Denis Shapovalov.
And 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal was once disqualified from a Davis Cup tie against Great Britain after he inadvertently hit umpire Arnaud Gabas with a ball. The difference to those incidents compared to Kyrgios though, is the balls were struck out of anger.
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