They were fretting about the seating before Nick Kyrgios walked on to court, asking those in one area to shuffle along because he is box office and he brings ‘very big demand’.
What happened across the course of the next three hours, though, posed the question of whether the tennis public really needs concerted, personalised, verbal abuse of line officials to feel it is being entertained.
By the end, as the young British player Paul Jubb showed Kyrgios what class looks like and took the match the distance, Court 3 began to display some partisan home support. But for much of the afternoon, you had to wonder why on God’s earth they were indulging a player who was behaving this way, when they could have got on his back.
Nick Kyrgios’ actions at Wimbledon showed a lack of class and should not be tolerated
Kyrgios criticised supporters and admitted that he spat in the direction of an abusive fan
Much mirth was taken in the general verbal spectacle. More still in the sight of Kyrgios smashing a ball high over the top of the court in anger, after he was broken by Jubb in the first set.
But it is fair to say the middle-aged woman who bore the brunt of the abuse had not signed up for this. ‘You’re the worst official,’ Kyrgios told her. ‘You’re a snitch,’ he added when she related the nature of his abuse to umpire Marija Cicak.
‘No one has come here to watch her do anything. Not one person. You know what I mean?’ he told Cicak, as the abuse of this woman went on. ‘I know you’ve got fans but she’s got none.’
A solitary voice from the crowd told it as it was, in that moment. ‘You’re s**t,’ someone shouted, a decent summation, and though no one really joined the chorus, the player in question did seem to consider himself disrespected. ‘I don’t start clapping when they are scanning s**t at a supermarket, do I?’ he complained.
The world No 13 didn’t hold back in making his feelings clear about the crowd and the umpire
That is the thing about those who walk around nursing a sense of victimhood. It is never their fault.
It takes a particular kind of cretin to say, looking in the general direction of one of the older line officials: ‘These people in their 90s — they can’t see the ball.’ And not even to look them in the eye as he says it.
This was not as bad as individual acts of verbal abuse can get. It is 13 years now since Serena Williams was penalised on match point — and lost — after declaring a wish to shove a ball down a line judge’s throat ‘and kill you’ in a US Open semi-final against Kim Clijsters.
Kyrgios was heavily critical of umpire Marija Cicak, describing the Croatian as ‘a snitch’
But as relentless, poisonous tirades go it was an afternoon no one will remember with the remotest affection.
Cicak is seen as something of a Kyrgios specialist. She has umpired one of his matches before and perhaps considers herself versed in how to handle him.
But her entire absence of warnings, or penalty points, gave him free reign. This felt like a dereliction of duty.
Attempting to link all his grievances back to social media abuse, Kyrgios extended his attack on line officials to the press
Kyrgios did not see it this way, needless to say. Attempting to link all his grievances back to social media abuse, he extended his attack on line officials to the press. ‘Most of the umpires are older. Factually people that are younger have better eyesight. Do you not think that’s appropriate?’
His offensive definition of supermarket workers was bewildering. ‘I don’t go into Argos and start smashing someone at the counter when they are doing their job,’ he said. ‘I’ve never done that.’
Nowhere was there an appreciation of the obvious: that his histrionics gave rise to the minimal dissent he faced from fans. This drama turned the tennis into a sub-plot, which was unfair on Jubb, the British No8 and world No 227, whose contribution will live long in the memory.
The drama created by Kyrgios turned the tennis into a sub-plot, which was unfair on Jubb
The match was in its first game when Jubb inadvertently hit a line judge with his racket and spent several seconds establishing there had been no damage done to him.
Jubb later said he had not been distracted which was some achievement. There was one of the trademark Kyrgios underarm serves in a first set which Jubb won, but the greatest disrespect was Kyrgios speaking while his 22-year-old opponent was preparing to serve in the third set.
‘Hold on a second,’ he declared, saying the scoreboard was showing scores from other matches. Jubb lost that point.
Jubb’s resilience was remarkable although he did have an opportunity to win the game
Jubb responded to the pantomime only once. ‘Huh?’ he asked, when his opponent seemed to direct a complaint at him in the first set. His resilience was remarkable, though he will reflect on the three break points he failed to take in the third game of the second set, a period of optimal Kyrgios self-combustion.
When the match was over and Kyrgios spat in the direction of some supporters, he was asked in the on-court interview if he might be a commentator one day. ‘I just talk a lot but if they pay me well enough, I’ll probably talk.’
It will be trash talk, though there will no doubt be takers. Apparently, that’s entertainment.