Tennis news: Lleyton Hewitt condemns Nick Kyrgios’ actions, United Cup, Stefanos Tsitsipas, scores, results

Australian United Cup co-captain Lleyton Hewitt has slammed Nick Kyrgios for blindsiding his teammates on the eve of the event.

Kyrgios withdrew from the event moments before he was due to appear at a press conference with the tournament director announcing his withdrawal.

Australian players were informed moments before sitting behind the microphone and had no information on why he wasn’t playing.

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said on Thursday Kyrgios was taking a “precautionary approach to protect his ankle” and he will rest up until the Australian Open begins on January 16.

Alex de Minaur stepped up into Kyrgios’ place and following his loss on the opening night to Britain’s Cameron Norrie, Hewitt said he was in the same spot as the players who had no idea Kyrgios wasn’t playing until the 11th hour.

Hewitt praised de Minaur for always stepping up when it came to playing for his country, a back-handed slap at Kyrgios who hasn’t played for Australia for several years.

“I was in the same boat as all the other players yesterday,” Hewitt said.

“I didn’t know any more (than others). It was pretty tough for everyone. It was more probably the lack of communication and these guys not knowing.

“I’m so proud of this bloke (de Minaur) and the effort and how he makes playing for his country a priority. It’s something I’m very proud of him for. I think for the whole team it was pretty tough not knowing what was going on the last 24 hours.”

Asked how Kyrgios could improve his communication, Hewitt said: “Probably just responding. That’s the normal way of doing it. There was a little while (before he responded).”

“It’s more just the communication. If it was just worrying Nick, that’s one thing.

“When it revolves around the team and other people and their preparation to be playing the best they possibly can leading into the Australian Open, that’s probably the hardest thing.”

Kyrgios’ withdrawal was met with dry scorn from some of his ATP Tour rivals, including Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“It is not a surprise, I hope he enjoys his holidays,” Tsitsipas, the main talent on the eight-player Greek side in Perth, said.

The pair have had a fractious relationship which came to a head at Wimbledon this year when Tsitsipas said his Australian opponent had an “evil side”, after a bad-tempered third-round match.

Kyrgios bit back on Thursday saying he does more for the sport as a promoter.

“Haha so after all this, all the media, journalism saying how bad I am for the sport, disrespecting the game (and) just a pure villain, I am going to be the number one episode on Netflix… to grow our fan base, basically trying to put tennis on the map again,” he tweeted.

Kyrgios was due to front the press conference at Sydney Olympic Park, but those gathered were informed of his withdrawal the day before the event was set to get underway.

Despite swirling suggestions Kyrgios had simply snubbed the event, Aussie great Wally Masur said on Thursday Kyrgios’ injury management was a very legitimate excuse.

“I’ve been talking to some of the players and he has been struggling with injuries,” Masur said on RSN.

“He’s played a few exhibitions over in the Middle East and a few of the players had concerns.

“I guess he practised the day prior and came to the conclusion that the ankle wasn’t right.”

Tsitsipas’ response to the news on Wednesday was somewhat different.

“It is not a surprise, I hope he enjoys his holidays,” Tsitsipas said in Perth.

The pair have had a fractious relationship which came to a head at Wimbledon this year when Tsitsipas said his Australian opponent had an “evil side”, after a bad-tempered third-round match.

Despite losing their number one player, Stosur remained confident the Aussies could reign supreme at the event.

“We have got amazing players on this team,” Stosur said. “Alex (de Minaur) is one of the best players in the world, Koobs (Kubler) has had an incredible year this year as well qualifying for a couple of slams so as far as the men’s team goes, we are in very capable hands still so I am not concerned that our chances are just diminished greatly or anything like that. We are out here to do everything we can possible to try and win this competition. It is not going to be easy, there are many great players here but we are ready to go and we are going to give it everything we’ve got.”

De Minaur wasn’t impressed when asked for his take on Kyrgios’ withdrawal, biting back at questions in the hope the focus would be on the team taking the court.

“You know I think it would be great if we just talk about this great team, we are all here, we are all happy to be here, we are about to play an exciting new event, something new for all of us, The United Cup,” he said.

“Let’s talk about that, it is exciting. Everyone here is excited to play so we are just going to have fun, it is a great team around us and we are just happy to be here.”

The Australian Open is due to get underway on January 16.

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