Nick Kyrgios has prevailed in a big-serving battle of wills against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, downing the Frenchman in four sets to progress to the round of 16 at the Australian Open.
The Australian’s clutch efforts during tiebreaks proved decisive in a 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) victory, earned in three hours and 17 minutes.
The win sets up a blockbuster fourth-round clash on Sunday night with Bulgarian third seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Friday night’s headline match didn’t disappoint, with stunning stroke play, momentum swings – and tantrums.
Kyrgios railed against his decision to play doubles on Thursday in the heat, a lack of support from his box and shot choices.
Infuriated by a member of the Rod Laver Arena crowd, Tsonga jokingly threatened to fight the punter, earning a code violation.
But it wasn’t all dummy spits – the Australian No.1 also encouraged his opponent to correctly challenge a ball – despite the high stakes – and shared a warm embrace at the net at match’s end.
“I’d never won a match on this court coming here,” Kyrgios said.
“I was very nervous … (Tsonga) was a guy I looked up to as a kid – still do. He’s a great guy; a champion. I’m happy to get through.”
Before the match had even begun, Kyrgios was hit with a code violation for being too slow to start.
After an early trade of breaks, the match fell into a rhythm favouring the servers – with just one more for the entire match.
Kyrgios was on the receiving end of good fortune in the first set tiebreak, when two Tsonga errors – including a double fault on set point – handed him the advantage.
But the 22-year-old effectively gave the second set away at 2-2 in the second set, spooning the simplest of half-volleys long as he dropped his serve in four quick points.
Deflated, he returned to the bench and shook his head, asking “why the f*** am I playing doubles?” towards his player box.
He had sarcastically called Thursday’s three-set first-round doubles win as “hours in 50 degrees … really good management” as he lost the plot.
Tsonga ran away with the set – not dropping a point on his last four holds.
Damningly, Kyrgios’ only four winners for the set were aces – but the Aussie No.1 used the break between sets to re-focus.
The 22-year-old’s swagger returned in the third set, with both men not giving up a break point en route to another breaker.
A superb backhand passing shot down the line helped Kyrgios to earn a second tiebreak success, bouncing to the bench as he grabbed the lead back.
Tsonga was rattled, snapping at the umpire to earn his own code violation.
He surged in the fourth set tiebreak to 5-2, but made four errors in the final five points to lose the match – recording his worst Open performance since 2007.