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Kyrgios apologizes for hasty walkout

AFP SHANGHAI (AFP-Jiji) — Australian firebrand Nick Kyrgios apologized and said he had been unwell after he stormed off court to loud boos midway through his opening match at the Shanghai Masters on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old issued a statement following his abrupt exit after losing the first set 7-5 on a tiebreak to American Steve Johnson, having been docked a point for the second match running because of his conduct.

The ATP Tour is investigating and Kyrgios, similarly hit with a point penalty in losing the China Open final to Rafael Nadal on Sunday, said he was “gutted” to retire against Johnson.

A member of Kyrgios’ coaching team said in Shanghai — where a year ago he was accused of “tanking” in defeat and consequently suspended — that the world No. 21 had injured his shoulder.

Hours later Kyrgios, whose undoubted talent has often been betrayed by his quickfire temper, made a statement on Twitter apologizing.

“I’ve been battling a stomach bug for the past 24 hours and I tried to be ready, but I was really struggling on the court today, which I think was pretty evident from the first point,” he wrote.

“My shoulder started to hurt in the practice today, which didn’t help either, and once I lost the first set I was just not strong enough to continue because I’ve not eaten much the past 24 hours.”

Kyrgios did look in discomfort with his shoulder early on in the match against the unseeded Johnson.

But he seemed untroubled by the injury when they entered the tie break, but as in the final in Beijing, his temper soon got the better of him, after he was angered by the unsettled crowd and the umpire.

He began Tuesday’s match on his best behavior but showed a first flash of irritation towards the end of the set, blasting a ball out of the court after he disagreed with a call.

Kyrgios and Johnson were both comfortable on their serves and they went into the tie break with signs Kyrgios was beginning to lose his cool.

He went 3-0 up in the tie break, but as Johnson pegged him back he was irked by spectators in the close-knit arena getting up between points.

“What’s happening here?” he asked, before muttering: “Exactly why I shouldn’t come here.”

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Kyrgios was fined $10,000 and lost another $21,085 in prize money for unsportsmanlike conduct, tennis officials said.

The 22-year-old was not allowed to collect his prize money for taking part in the tournament because he failed to see a doctor afterward to prove he was unwell or hurt.

Kyrgios also pulled out of his scheduled doubles match with Frenchman Lucas Pouille on Wednesday.

Venus blows past Ozaki

HONG KONG (AFP-Jiji) — Venus Williams raced through her opening match in the WTA Hong Kong Open on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Risa Ozaki.

The world No. 5 took just 74 minutes to see off Japan’s Ozaki in hot and humid conditions in Victoria Park.

It was an ideal way for Williams to shake off any rust in her first match since losing to Sloane Stephens in the U.S. Open semifinal a month ago.

Williams punctuated the performance with some trademark power winners and sent down seven aces to overwhelm the world No. 95.

“Four weeks goes by pretty fast and the first match is never perfect,” said Williams, who dropped her own serve twice.

“It was a hard-fought match despite the score and it was a great way to start. I hit a lot of balls and hopefully can play my way into this tournament.”

Williams, 37 but seemingly ageless, has enjoyed a magnificent season, reaching two Grand Slam finals to qualify for the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore for the first time since 2009.

The second seed faces another Japanese opponent in Naomi Osaka in the second round. Osaka overcame Chilean qualifier Alexa Guarachi 7-5, 6-4 in their first-round encounter Tuesday.

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