Nick Kyrgios was at the centre of controversy during his opening match at the US Open on Monday (August 30).
As is typically the case in most of his matches, the Aussie's on-court outburst became the talking point as he suffered a straight-sets loss to 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-3 6-4 6-0.
The world No.86 took issue with the chair umpire when he was asked to place his towel in the designated boxes at the back of the court, as has been protocol in all matches since the pandemic.
Kyrgios called the request a "f****** joke" when, after the first three games of the match, Carlos Bernardes reminded him of the rules.
Playing in the humid New York night, the 26-year-old retaliated: "So I have to walk back to the box to wipe my arms because I’m sweating and I get a time violation but someone can go to the bathroom for 20 minutes and it’s OK? Explain it to me. It doesn’t make any f****** sense."
Kyrgios' bathroom break comment can be safely interpreted as a dig at Stefanos Tsitsipas following his win over Andy Murray earlier in the day, during which he took an eight-minute bathroom break, much to Murray's fury.
Kyrgios continued his tirade towards the umpire throughout the match, arguing with him between changeovers and taking issue when he saw Bernardes drinking water, before he had a chance to get himself a fresh bottle.
Meanwhile, his opponent seemed unaffected by the issues on Kyrgios' side of the court, racing to a straightforward victory.
Bautista Agut handed the former world No.13 his worst-ever loss at Grand Slam level based on games won, with Kyrgios only able to secure seven games across the first two sets before taking a bagel in the third.
Following the match, the often-controversial Aussie explained that his problem with the towel placement was related to the lack of players getting vaccinated on tour.
"Look, the towel situation for me is incredibly stupid," he said. "I'm one of the players on Tour that is fully vaccinated. And as of now, I'm getting treated exactly the same as a player that is not vaccinated. I feel like if I want my towel around the court, if it's not disturbing Bautista Agut's vision, if he doesn't see the towel, I don't see anything wrong with having my towel on the side or on the ground. And it's just absurd for me."
Kyrgios has previously been outspoken over his vaccine stance, slamming players who refused the jab and saying they "can't complain" about current restrictions on tour.
Tsitsipas is one of the players to have recently voiced his stance on the Covid vaccine, saying he would only get it if it became mandatory on the tennis tour.
The world No.3 went as far as to say he believed it was a "good" thing for young people like himself to catch the virus, and saw no point for someone in his "age group" to get vaccinated.
He was slammed by the Greek government for his stance, with spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou saying the 23-year-old “has neither the knowledge nor the studies nor the research work that would allow him to form an opinion” and, as an admired athlete, should be “doubly careful in expressing such views.”
After taking a dig at the third seed, Kyrgios was complimentary of his opponent, admitting the world No.21 was the better player on the night.
He said: "I just got outplayed to be honest. All credit to him, he's a hell of a player. I had a break point in the first set, unfortunately didn't take it, and little things like that can turn a match when you play a world class player like Roberto."
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