Nick Kyrgios tasted victory, and caught a whiff of marijuana, in his second round match at the US Open on Wednesday.
Kyrgios, the 23rd-seeded Australian, outlasted the unranked Benjamin Bonzi in four sets to advance in the final tennis grand slam of the year, held annually in New York City.
But Kyrgios was apparently tested by more than just his French opponent. As the two players changed sides in the second set, Kyrgios asked the chair umpire to admonish the crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“You don’t want to remind anyone not to do it or anything?” Kyrgios said to the umpire, as quoted by the Associated Press.
CNN reported that the umpire “reminded fans to refrain from smoking around the court as play got back underway.” The smell appeared to be wafting from the concessions in the concourse of the stadium.
“People don’t know that I’m a heavy asthmatic so when I’m running side to side and struggling to breathe already, it’s probably not something I want to be breathing in between points,” Kyrgios said in a post-match interview, as quoted by CNN.
Recreational cannabis has been legal in the state of New York for more than a year, and public usage has become ubiquitous throughout NYC.
Under the new law, marijuana smoking is permitted wherever cigarette smoking is also allowed. That does not apply to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the US Open, which is a strict “smoke free environment.”
Regulators in New York have tried to rein in the public toking by creating other smoke-free refuges. In July, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law that prohibits “smoking in all state-owned beaches, boardwalks, marinas, playgrounds, recreation centers, and group camps.” And yes, that includes both cigarettes and weed.
“Smoking is a dangerous habit that affects not only the smoker but everyone around them, including families and children enjoying our state’s great public places,” Hochul said in a statement. “I’m proud to sign this legislation that will protect New Yorkers’ health and help reduce litter in public parks and beaches across the state.”
But New York being New York, those limits will continue to be tested. And at the US Open, the distractions are far more plentiful than at other, more tranquil tennis competitions.
As the Associated Press noted in its match report, the “noise of New York is a challenge for many players, and Kyrgios struggled not only with the chatter of the fans but with the roars of the trains that can be heard from outside the open-air stadium.”
“For someone that’s struggled to focus in my career, I’m really trying hard to put my head down and play point by point, try to dig myself out of some certain situations. It’s hard because there’s a lot of distractions,” Kyrgios said, as quoted by the Associated Press.
“Obviously, a lot of heckling going on as well. People are saying things. I got to be very careful with what I say these days,” he added.
Kyrgios, a mercurial personality known for on-court outbursts, didn’t appear to get much of a contact high from the ambient cannabis.
He was, per the Associated Press, “his usual animated self during the match, carrying on conversations with himself and people in the seats,” at one point receiving “a warning for using profanity when the target of his anger was somebody in his box who Kyrgios didn’t feel was being supportive enough.”
It was hardly the first time Kyrgios has objected to the behavior of the crowd. During the Wimbledon final in July, he complained to the umpire about a woman in attendance, saying it “looks like she’s had about 700 drinks.”
That woman took legal action against Kyrgios last month, saying he defamed her.