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Choice words, bizarre antics mark a wacky men’s night at Wimbledon

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios had a lot to say during his four-set win over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas. “It felt kind of a circus, in a way,” Tsitsipas said after the match. (Hannah Mckay/Reuters)

WIMBLEDON, England — Wimbledon, which has a tradition of nuttiness squeezing out from beneath its elegance, had a nutty Saturday night.

A quick wrangle peppered the match on Centre Court between Rafael Nadal and Lorenzo Sonego. Before, during and after that, a protracted cacophony slathered itself all over the match on Court No. 1 between Stefanos Tsitsipas, the No. 5 player in the world, and that longtime hub of commotion, Nick Kyrgios, ranked 40th but forever capable of abbreviated brilliance.

Nadal, the reigning Australian Open and French Open champion, played his most frightful match so far here in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 wipeout. Kyrgios, still a magnet of attention while not reaching any Grand Slam quarterfinal in seven years, won a gripping fourth-set tiebreaker and advanced, 6-7 (7-2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7).

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There ended the tennis. On came the talking.

“Yeah, it felt kind of a circus, in a way,” Tsitsipas said of the match.

The circus had code violations for both players, Tsitsipas slamming a ball off the court that almost hit spectators after he lost the second set, Kyrgios griping to the chair umpire for not defaulting Tsitsipas, Kyrgios griping more, Tsitsipas hitting balls at Kyrgios, Kyrgios griping more, Tsitsipas fielding an underhand serve and slamming it up to the wall behind the baseline, Kyrgios griping more.

The fourth-seeded Tsitsipas lamented the ceaseless yakking. “There comes a point where you really get tired of it, let’s say,” he said. “The constant talking, the constant complaining. I mean, I’m about to serve, and there is a big gap there that there is no tennis being played, which is the most important thing on the court. We are there to play tennis. We are not there to have conversations and dialogues with other people, except — especially, actually, not ‘except’ — when you really know that the referee is not going to overrule what he decided, you know. It’s really silly, in a way.”

He said: “There is no other player that is so upset and frustrated all the time with something. It triggers so easy and so fast.”

Tsitsipas blamed himself for the slammed ball near the spectators even as he lent a sliver of the blame to how Kyrgios addled him. “Look, I have to say it was really bad from my side,” he said. “I have never done that before, throwing the ball outside the court in that way. I did apologize to the people. I don’t know what went through my head at that time. … It did hit the wall, thank God. For sure I’m never doing that again. It’s my responsibility, for sure.”

He praised Kyrgios’s distinctiveness and “good traits in his character” but noted “a very evil side to him” and said: “He was probably a bully at school himself. I don’t like bullies.”

As for the reply to the underhand serve, he said, “I was aiming for the body of my opponent but I missed by a lot, by a lot.”

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Kyrgios, a swirl of chaos this tournament that has featured him spitting toward an abusive fan during the first round, spoke in stages: in an on-court interview with “ultimate respect” for Tsitsipas and, after hearing some of Tsitsipas’s comments, with a respect sub-ultimate.

“Well, I would be pretty upset if I lost to someone two weeks in a row as well,” he said, just getting going.

“I was just wondering why he was still on the court,” Kyrgios said, “because I know if the roles had been reversed, I would have been pulled off that court and defaulted, for sure.” He called Tsitsipas “soft” for getting rattled and suggested Tsitsipas’s dismay might help explain why he hasn’t crested at the top just yet.

“I wasn’t hitting balls at his face,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t know. I didn’t feel like there was any anger. I had no anger toward Stef today on the match. I don’t know where it’s coming from, to be honest. He was angry because when he hit the ball out of the [court], it was directed at his box. Obviously, they had some friction, and obviously when you start losing and losing to me again, you get angry.”

Nadal, by contrast, sounded prim. He had called Sonego to the net during the third set after complaining to the umpire about a noise Sonego made midpoint. The players chatted at length at the net after the match.

“Well, first of all, I have to say that I was wrong,” Nadal said. “Probably I will not — I should not call him on the net. So apologize for that. My mistake in that. No problem. I recognize that. Then after that, all the stuff during the match that I don’t want to comment, because is something that I spoke with him in the locker room and it stays there.”