On another furnace-like day at Melbourne Park, Nick Kyrgios and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga produced one highly-entertaining third round that lived up to expectations while Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund pushed himself to his limits to survive Nikoloz Basilashvili and the heat over five sets and reach the last 16.
Kyrgios, who had spoken before the match of how he idolised Tsonga when he was younger and got his autograph every day during the 2008 Australian Open, ticked off an item off his bucket list by defeating the Frenchman in four tight sets. At the net, they shared a warm embrace and Kyrgios said he was at a loss for words.
“Honestly, I shook hands with Jo at the net. He was like, ‘Great match’. I was kind of staring at him. I didn’t really say anything. He kind of just smiled, kind of embraced me. I was nervous for both honestly,” said Kyrgios of facing Tsonga, as well as playing in front of American Hollywood star Will Smith who was in the stands.
Kyrgios is becoming more and more open when talking to the press or in public and it appears he is slowly turning some of his critics into fans.
A few days ago, Roger Federer spoke about the power of the microphone and how many players are too scared to be themselves and speak their minds in fear of the media and to preserve a certain image they wish to portray.
Kyrgios assured on Friday that he is not one of those people.
“I’m always going to say what I think. I mean, it’s an opportunity to get a message across. But yeah, I mean, I would love to see what players think, how they really feel. They all have different personalities. No one is the same. Yeah, it would be good for everyone to just say what they think,” said the 22-year-old.
Here are highlights from day five Down Under…
HERO OF THE DAY
It’s one thing to pull off a big upset on day one of a tournament and it’s another to back it up by not just one, but two more wins to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam. Kyle Edmund fought through four hours to defeat 11th-seeded Kevin Anderson in five sets in his opening round, then took out Denis Istomin in straights in the second before battling through three and a half hours to oust Nikoloz Basilashvili in five sets in scorching conditions in the third round on Friday. Can he go one better and reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final? Andreas Seppi will be standing in his way on Sunday.
STATS OF THE DAY
11 – Rafael Nadal has reached the fourth round of the Australian Open for an 11th time, which places him joint second with Novak Djokovic and Stefan Edberg on the list of most fourth rounds reached in Melbourne in the Open Era.
28 – combined double faults from Grigor Dimitrov and Andrey Rublev in their third round on Friday — 15 of which came off the Dimitrov racquet. He managed to win in four sets nonetheless.
UPSET OF THE DAY
22-year-old Estonian Anett Kontaveit took out reigning French Open champion and No. 7 seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time. The 32nd-seeded Kontaveit survived 32 winners off the Ostapenko racquet and is into the last 16 at a major for just the second time and first since the 2015 US Open.
BEST ON-COURT INTERVIEW
It’s fair to say Jim Courier is probably the best on-court interviewer out there and he did a stellar job with Nick Kyrgios on Friday. The American legend asked Kyrgios about a TV interview he did recently in which he said he’d like Will Smith to play him in a movie, if there was ever one made about the Aussie player’s life.
Kyrgios started laughing in embarrassment because Smith was actually in the stands watching.
“When I saw him out here I was so nervous… People think I’m cool but I wanted him to think I was the coolest,” Kyrgios said with a chuckle to Courier, who then asked Smith is he considered Kyrgios cool. Smith responded with a laugh and thumbs up from the stands.
“When I saw him out here I was so nervous… People think I’m cool but I wanted him to think I was the coolest.” @NickKyrgios declares his love for Will Smith in his post-match interview 😅 #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/NuRKsNWg1F
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 19, 2018
“I have Focus on my phone and watch it every time I have a flight. Best movie ever — but it’s because of Margot Robbie, by the way,” Kyrgios joked with Smith on court.
Later the young Aussie told reporters what he was telling Smith during the changeovers of the third set.
“Every time he got shown on the screen, they cheered louder for him than any of the shots we were making,” explained Kyrgios.
“I was like, ‘Man, you may as well just stay out here, they probably enjoy that more than the tennis’. I said, ‘I watched a load of your movies a bunch of times’. It was pretty cringe, but it broke the ice.”
DRAMA OF THE DAY
Tsonga lost his cool during his match with Kyrgios and angrily muttered something in French towards someone in the stands. Multiple tweets from tennis fans translated Tsonga’s words as: “Come down here I’m going to kick your a**”, claiming it was directed at someone in Kyrgios’ box.
Tsonga later said in press: “Yeah, because on the set point, in between the first serve and the second, the guy was talking to me and telling me, ‘You are under pressure now, you are under pressure now’, when I was bouncing my balls. That’s it. I lost it and I drive a little bit crazy.
“You know, it’s not fair. It’s not fair. But, yeah, that’s it. The guy was feeling safe because he was, you know, upstairs. I just tell him, Come now to see if you feel the pressure or not. That’s it. But nothing really important.”
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“I think I lost all of them, and I played three or four. Everybody was, okay, it’s your birthday. Must be good luck. I was, like, No, actually, never been.”
— Petra Martic, who finally got a win on her birthday, a third round success over Luksika Kumkhum on Friday in Melbourne.
“How much you have to pay Svitolina to have one-hour lesson? I got it for free.”
— Marta Kostyuk following her 6-2, 6-2 loss to Elina Svitolina.
“It was expensive, because we play for prize money.”
— Svitolina’s response.
But French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko’s tournament is over, with the Latvian seventh seed crashing out in three sets to Estonian Anett Kontaveit.
Spanish world number one Nadal showed no mercy to 28th seed Damir Dzumhur on Margaret Court Arena, as he rediscovers his best form after ankle trouble.
The top seed raced through the match in just 1hr 50min, wasting as little energy as possible in the 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 rout. He next faces 24th-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman for a place in the quarter-finals.
“He’s a great player. He’s a player that last year had an amazing year, and this year start again playing so well,” Nadal said of Schwartzman. “So already won three matches here, playing again at very high level. He’s a very complete player.
“Being honest, he’s a player that if I don’t play my best, probably I don’t going to win. He’s a player that have all the shots, big control from the baseline, don’t miss much. He’s able to change directions easy. He’s a player that already played the quarterfinals in the US Open. He’s already in the fourth round.
“Tough one, and I need to play my best.”
“In general terms, I think I should be very happy.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 19, 2018
No. 3 seed Dimitrov, who could meet Nadal in the semis, had plenty to prove after a huge second-round fright from a qualifier, who pushed him to five sets.
And the Bulgarian delivered in a testing 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Russian rising star Andrey Rublev as temperatures touched 40°C.
He will next face Australian Nick Kyrgios who beat French veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four close and entertaining sets in a prime-time evening match on Rod Laver Arena.
“It was amazing. I’ve never won a match on this court before but playing Jo I was obviously very nervous,” said the 17th seeded local hope.
Second seed Wozniacki has not impressed so far, but she put in a better performance to beat Dutch 30th seed Kiki Bertens 6-4, 6-3, finally getting over the line on her fourth match point.
It sets her up with a clash against 19th-seeded Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova.
Wozniacki had fought back from the brink in the previous round, rallying from 1-5 down in the final set against Jana Fett, and saving two match points along the way.
“I was close to being out. Yesterday was a nice day, still feeling like I’m still alive, I still have an opportunity. Today I walked out and I thought I started better in my match, started playing a little better,” said the ex-world No. 1.
“She played well today, served well. Yeah, I’m just happy to be through.”
Wozniacki had the benefit of playing the night match on Friday, avoiding the brutal heat conditions that struck the tournament for the past two days.
The Dane watched the second round between Gael Monfils and Novak Djokovic on Thursday, in which the Frenchman looked like he was going to collapse on the court from the extreme temperatures.
“I thought it was a shame that the roof wasn’t on because I think that could have been a really high-quality match. All of a sudden, you know, Monfils was basically passing out in the heat. You could really see both of them struggling,” said Wozniacki.
“I think that could have been an incredible tennis match, but it was hampered a bit by the heat. It is what it is. I don’t really know exactly the rules of when it gets too hot, but I thought yesterday was brutal.”
The 17th seeded Kyrgios needed three tiebreakers to win a crunch match with the former finalist 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5) in 3hr 17min in a spectacular night match on Rod Laver Arena.
It pitches the volatile Australian into a round of 16 showdown with Bulgaria’s world No.3 Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday.
Kyrgios, urged on by his home crowd, traded breathtaking volleys with Tsonga, who lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Australian final when Kyrgios was a 12-year-old fan.
“It was amazing. I’ve never won a match on this court before but playing Jo I was obviously very nervous,” Kyrgios said on court.
“He was a guy I looked up to as a kid, still do, he’s a great guy. I’m just so happy to get through.
“I was getting prepared for a fifth set in that (fourth set) tiebreaker.
“I thought he was going to hit two big first serves and I was in a lot of trouble but I stayed composed, tied to make some returns and fight it out.”
The match had some drama just after the third set when an incensed Tsonga yelled at the chair umpire in French about a vocal member of the crowd.
Tsonga was heard to say “bring him here, he needs to come down here”.
He said it three times before the umpire warned the French star, telling him: “You have to stop, you have to stop. Nothing good can come from it. You have to stop.”
Tsonga was then issued with a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Kyrgios won his first home ATP Tour title at the lead-up Brisbane International — beating Dimitrov along the way — and is looking to go further than a quarter-final appearance in Melbourne three years ago.