It wasn’t an easy watch, but Nick Kyrgios came through a testing five-set thriller against fellow Australian Jordan Thompson – to set up an exciting encounter vs. Rafael Nadal on Thursday.
It was back-and-forth, akin to theatre viewing. But having watched Kyrgios frequently in recent years, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Whichever version comes to play has proven interchangeable: he can be brilliant and produce spectacular moments, then a questionable call or mini incident often irks him – to a point where his game severely suffers and it seems he no longer cares.
That threatened to be the case on this occasion, though Thompson – who he has known since the pair were nine-years-old – too was visibly frustrated. After all, he’s been enjoying the form of his life recently. Having broken into the top 50 a few weeks ago, his grass-court momentum was strong and quietly confident going into this clash.
A plethora of unforced errors on shots he should’ve made, coupled with some contentious officiating decisions meant the 25-year-old was increasingly close to getting point deductions and the like. Were racquets being thrown and tantrums not limited to just Kyrgios?
Despite saving a whopping seven set points, it wasn’t enough for Thompson to claim a hotly-contested third set – which should’ve really changed the game’s complexion altogether. Instead, Kyrgios was clearly tiring but not helping himself by getting engaged in rallies. Despite good shot defence, he wasn’t winning a lot of them either.
Kyrgios takes third set but match was far from over
After two hours 40 minutes, Nick finally edged through to give himself a 2-1 lead. It didn’t last long. He has struggled with conditioning in recent years and a lack of high-intensity matches for sustained periods haven’t helped his cause.
It showed and Thompson was suddenly rejuvenated: pushing the pace, manoeuvring around the court well and frustrating Nick into an uncomfortable position.
After being bagelled and again relinquishing his lead though, Kyrgios responded in ruthless fashion – showcasing the type of tennis which saw him so highly-rated after his breakthrough year in 2014.
Despite struggling for first serve consistency, he recorded 23 aces, 63 winners and ultimately prevailed with the type of reserved demeanour suggesting deep down he knew he’d win either way.
Elsewhere from an Australian perspective, world number one Ashleigh Barty came through unscathed with a 6-2, 6-4 win over China’s Saisai Zheng. Bernard Tomic, who too was previously rated highly, lost in just 58 minutes during a straight-sets thrashing by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Now though, it’s time for Kyrgios to rest and recuperate as Rafael Nadal awaits in the second round.