Nick Kyrgios’ quest for his first Grand Slam title will have to wait.
The World No. 25 came out on the wrong end of a grueling, back-and-forth 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 and 39 minute match, Kyrgios, seeded No. 23 at the U.S. Open, threw a fit after the loss. He slammed and smashed two rackets on the court — breaking both — before exiting the stadium. He also smashed and broke a racket during the match.
With the win, Khachanov, the 27th seed, advances to the semifinals of a slam for the first time. He will face No. 5 Casper Ruud on Friday for a berth in the championship match.
“I did it,” he said during his on-court interview. “I did it guys.
“It was a crazy match. I was expecting it to be like this. We played almost four hours, that’s the only way to beat Nick, I think.”
Kyrgios, who cooled down after the match, 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 thought he served really good today. Honestly probably the best server I played this tournament, to be honest, the way he was hitting his spots under pressure.”
The fourth set proved to be the most compelling as it saw ups and downs from both players. Kyrgios double-faulted on the last point of the sixth game to let Khachanov tie it up 3-3, but he also slammed an ace in the last point of the eighth game to even the set 4-4. Despite minimizing his mistakes for most of the match, Khachanov fell behind 3-0 after dropping a 25-shot rally and was largely underwhelming in the tiebreak.
Khachanov simply played a tighter game, committing just 31 unforced errors in comparison to Kyrgios’ egregious 58. He also converted on four of eight break points, while Kyrgios secured two of nine.
“He just played the big points well,” Kyrgios said. “Really wasn’t anything in it. I’m just devastated obviously. Just feel like it was either winning it all or nothing at all, to be honest. I feel like I’ve just failed at this event right now. That’s what it feels like.”
After trading off the first 10 games of the opening set, Khachanov took a 6-5 lead behind four straight aces. And when a double fault from Kyrgios teed Khachanov up for the set point, the Aussie attempted to come to the net on the next point before Khachanov lobbed one to the far corner to secure the set.
Kyrgios then needed a medical timeout to get his left leg tended to. It was obviously bothering Kyrios, who wasn’t playing with his usual aggression and repeatedly reached for his left knee while grimacing during the first set.
“I can’t walk,” Kyrgios said as he called for a trainer. “I can’t walk without pain, it’s too much.”
After the match, Kyrgios somewhat downplayed the injury.
“Just knee sore,” he said. Obviously I’ve been playing a lot of tennis the last couple months. … I just split-stepped and just tweaked it a little bit. Ended up feeling fine. I got some deep heat on it. Everyone is carrying a bit of a niggle right now. Nothing major.”
The trainer rubbed cream on his calf, massaged extensively just under his knee and Kyrgios returned for the second set. During his first service game, however, Kyrgios turned to his box and expressed with some strong expletives that he didn’t want to play through the injury.
“I honestly feel like s–t,” Kyrgios said after the match. “I feel like I’ve let so many people down.”
This was a highly-anticipated matchup for many reasons. While their head-to-head record stood at one match a piece heading into Tuesday night’s quarterfinal matchup, the most memorable showdown between Kyrgios and Khachanov unfolded on Twitter in 2020. Kyrgios was publicly critical of certain tennis stars during the pandemic, specifically Novak Djokovic — who’s unvaccinated status prevented him from competing in the Open — for his organization of the Adria Tour.
In addition to calling the Serbian’s actions “boneheaded,” Kyrgios later called Khachanov an “absolute pelican” during the social media spat.
On the court, these two had some highly entertaining battles as well. Their most notable match unfolded in the 2020 Australian Open, where Kyrgios triumphed in a five-set thriller, which saw four tie-breaks. Khachanov took the other meeting at the Cincinnati Masters in 2019, when Kyrgios imploded in three sets and capped it off by spitting in the direction of chair umpire Fergus Murphy.
There was no spitting in this one, but Kyrgios was his usual exuberant self. His emotions were heightened even more by the injury and some unruly fans, which culminated in an unsportsmanlike conduct warning after he threw his water bottle following the third set.
But none of that bothered Khachanov.
“I was prepared,” Khachanov said of the atmosphere during his press conference. “I was expecting that the crowd would be more for him, that he was the favorite in their eyes. I don’t get upset on that.
“It’s like one more step forward,” Khachanov added. “I’m really, really happy I could do it. Also I had to face and to beat Nick, who is playing one of the best tennis again.”