ROME: Australian firebrand Nick Kyrgios was disqualified from the Italian Open after an expletive-laden rant on Thursday as defending champion Rafael Nadal swept into the third round along with top seed Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Kyrgios grabbed the headlines when he suffered a spectacular meltdown on Court Three against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud.
The controversial 24-year-old, who had marked his presence in Rome by criticizing Djokovic and Nadal in an interview on Wednesday, started arguing with the umpire in the third set.
World No. 36 Kyrgios had levelled the match at one set all but was given a game penalty early on in the third set for swearing.
His response was to kick out at a water bottle before throwing a chair onto the court, packing his bag and then storming off court, shouting “I am f...ing done.”
Kyrgios was automatically disqualified with Ruud winning 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 2-1 to advance to the third round against former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.
Kyrgios had already been at the center of controversy during Wednesday’s washout when he told the NCR Tennis Podcast that Djokovic had “a sick obsession with wanting to be liked” and that the Serb’s post-match celebration was “cringeworthy.”
Nadal was described by the Australian as “super-salty.”
Meanwhile, Nadal crushed France’s Jeremy Chardy 6-0, 6-1, with Federer, a four-time runner-up, easing past Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-3, and Djokovic beating Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-1, 6-3.
For 37-year-old Federer, returning to Italy for the first time since 2016, it was like a practice session.
“Like any other practice day when you play twice a day, you finish the first session, take a shower, eat something, relax, get ready for the next one,” said the 20-time Grand Slam winner.
“I think it gives me some good information. I believe it’s going to be similar conditions in the match this afternoon.”
Nadal said it was a “good start” as he targets a first title on clay this season before he starts the defense of his French Open crown from May 26.
“That’s important for what’s coming up,” said the eight-time Rome winner.
World number four Dominic Thiem slammed tournament organizers after he was dumped out 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 by Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.
Austrian Thiem complained competitors were left hanging around during the rain-impacted day 24 hours earlier.
“I really dislike how we players get treated at this tournament because yesterday was, in my opinion, not acceptable,” said last year’s French Open runner-up.
“I’m quite pissed about it. I was tired, exhausted, today because of all these shitty things,” he added.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the sixth seed, got past American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-4 and next meets Jan-Lennard Struff.
In the women’s competition, world No. 1 Naomi Osaka fought back after losing her serve early to ease past Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3 against the 33rd-ranked Slovak who she also beat last week in Madrid.
The Japanese star hit 44 winners and 12 aces, despite 25 unforced errors.
Osaka, the US Open and Australian Open champion, reached the third round in Rome for the first time in three appearances.
She was at risk of losing her world number one ranking to Simona Halep but the Romanian was knocked out by Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova losing 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 having needed to win the tournament to regain top spot she last held in mid-January.
Halep’s defeat also guarantees Osaka’s top seed at the French Open.
Next up for the Japanese player on the clay of the Foro Italico is Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu.
Czech second seed Petra Kvitova eased past Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-1.