Kyrgios Edges Tsonga In Melbourne Thriller
Australian beats his childhood idol for Last 16 clash versus Dimitrov
New year, new Nick Kyrgios. Competing with newfound resolve and confidence, the talented Australian remained perfect in 2018 with a 7-0 record after winning the match of the Australian Open on Friday night.
The 22-year-old Kyrgios harnessed the energy of the crowd on Rod Laver Arena en route to beating 2008 finalist and No. 15 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5) – a high-quality encounter – over three hours and 18 minutes.
"He's a tough opponent. He's beaten pretty much all the top guys in the world. I knew it was going to be an incredibly tough match. I was very nervous going out there today," Kyrgios said. "Obviously 2/5 down in the fourth set breaker, I was kind of getting ready for a fifth set mentally. I somehow just hung in and got a couple looks. I mean, it was surreal out there today, that win."
Watched by actor Will Smith, former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and all-time great Rod Laver, Kyrgios later admitted, "When I saw him [Smith] out here, I was so nervous. I just wanted him to think I was cool!"
Kyrgios showcased great flair and heart throughout the pair’s second meeting, saving one set point at 5/6 in the third set tie-break and in fighting back from a 2/5 deficit in the fourth set tie-break for a memorable win.
Both players struck 28 aces and while Tsonga converted two of his five break point opportunities and hit 70 winners – in comparison to 1/4 and 54 for Kyrgios, respectively – the Australian held his nerve on serve in testing circumstances.
"Tsonga is a great guy, a champion of the game, someone I looked up to as a kid,” said Kyrgios. “I am just happy to get through. To be in the locker room with these guys, the first year especially, was surreal."
Kyrgios, who is through to the Last 16 at the Australian Open for the first time since 2015, will now challenge another in-form opponent, World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov, who last season captured the Nitto ATP Finals and Western & Southern Open crowns.
"I have got a tough match against Grigor Dimitrov now," said Kyrgios, who beat Dimitrov at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp two weeks ago. "He is an amazing athlete who finished the year strongly last year, and the best-of-five sets might suit him."Read Report: Dimitrov Finds A Way To Beat Rublev
“I played good tennis, but I didn't play a good match because on the big moments, I was not there," said Tsonga. "I didn't play good tennis on the big points. That's what I need to do to [go to] the next level – be more consistent in the big moments. So many times I had opportunities, I have the possibility to lead."
When asked about letting slip his 5/2 advantage in the tie-break, Tsonga added, "I was focused on the game. I missed a backhand, then I went to the net not in a really bad condition, but he played a passing shot and the ball touched the net. It's good play. Then he was solid."
"I thought I was looking down the barrel of a fifth set," Kyrgios said. "I made a couple good returns. At 5/5, I missed my first serve by a long shot. I was like, 'I got to make the second serve and compete for that point'. Everything just kind of went my way."
The No. 17 seed delighted the home crowd to record his 30th match win at a Grand Slam championship and remain unbeaten in the new season. He beat American Ryan Harrison in the Brisbane final for his fourth ATP World Tour trophy.