In fact, the racket came from a quarterfinals of the Australian Open men’s doubles. The main act? ‘Special K’, also known as Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
The Australian wildcard duo have stunned fans on their unlikely journey to the semi-finals of their home grand slam, culminating in a raw 7-5 3-6 6-3 quarter-final victory over Tim Puetz and Michael Venus in a packed Kia Arena on Tuesday.
Doubles undoubtedly has an uneasy place in the tennis world – with singles events consistently taking precedence in both prize money and coverage – making the attention and admiration the duo garner all the more impressive.
But for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, their relationship with the audience is a symbiotic one and is at the heart of their motivation to perform.
“This Australian Open, frankly, it’s more about the people – playing for them is more important than our double success,” Kyrgios said.
“We haven’t set any goals of what we want to achieve in doubles this year, I just want to play and give the people of Australia and the Australian Open a show and sincerely try to grow the sport of tennis.
“That’s why I play and I know Thanasi just enjoys it – this is the most fun we’ve ever had on the pitch.
“The thrill for us is to go out honestly. This sounds stupid, but we’re worried about what happens in the game after that,” Kokkinakis added.
“When we see how much support we have and then the public goes crazy every time we go out and how much they enjoy it, that puts us to work and motivates us to do better for them.”
Tears and cheers
A perfect encapsulation of the pair’s bond with the Melbourne crowd – as well as Kyrgios’ enigmatic personality – came early in the first set of the quarterfinals when the 26-year-old savagely punched a returning dead ball into the crowd after a late serve.
The ball hit a child and brought him to tears, with a mortified Kyrgios covering his mouth in shock.
After a brief chat with Kokkinakis, Kyrgios rushed to the stands to hand over a token of apology to a boy who – although admittedly still a little tearful – now waved a smile, a new racket and a monster. of a story to share at school.
The ensuing warm applause from the crowd was a response that the oft-cited ‘bad boy of tennis’ hasn’t always received.
But this double run really seems to have set Kyrgios on fire and there can be no doubt which side of the “love-hate” this year’s crowd is falling on – especially the group of young fans who have gathered for the the duo’s matches at Melbourne Park.
“There’s no way around it, me and Thanasi are definitely role models for the youth in Australia, we naturally attract that audience,” Kyrgios said.
“I know I haven’t been the best role model over the years, but I was just learning to deal with everything and I think I’ve grown up now at 26 and I definitely realized that a lot young children and people — even people who have low self-esteem — they watch us when we go out.
“We’re not special people, we’re normal people you might see walking around in Australia…I think we’re just recognizable, that’s the best thing about it.”
For 26-year-old Krygios, difference is the key to his place in the sport.
“Tennis has always had personalities, I’ve said this before, but I think they just struggled to understand that there are different ways to go about it.
“You’ve got Roger Federer and these guys who are only once in a generation athletes — I can’t be like that, we’re not like that. There have to be people who are a little bit more recognizable.”
Skills aside, Krygios and Kokkinakis put on a once-in-a-generation spectacle at the Australian Open — just think of Melbourne’s lovers of peace and quiet when they’re all about it.