Clinical Kyrgios topples idol Tsonga
The Australian No.1 faces third seed Grigor Dimitrov in the Last 16.
Nick Kyrgios sent out a message of intent with a scintillating 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(6) 7-6(5) triumph over former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open third round.
In the build up to the clash with the Frenchman, Kyrgios declared Tsonga was his tennis idol growing up, and even chased down the 2008 finalist for an autograph a decade ago.
Fast forward to 2018 and Kyrgios is emerging as a true title contender at his home Grand Slam.
“It was amazing, I’d never won a match on this court,” declared Kyrgios. “Playing Jo I was very nervous, he’s a champion of the game, I looked up to him growing up, so to get a win against him is a dream come true.”
The Australian No.1 capitalised upon some wayward strikes from the Frenchman to race 3-1 into the ascendancy.
A net cord wrong-footed Kyrgios to enabled Tsonga to break back. The 32-year-old found more venom in his shots and edged towards the opener at 4-5 and 15-30.
However, a brace of aces eased the pressure for the No.17 seed. Kyrgios joked with the crowd as he waved out Tsonga’s overhit return from another cannonball serve to draw level.
A tiebreak was required and Kyrgios curled in some viciously swerving serves to dictate play. A stunning stop volley from Tsonga fended off the first set point, but the 15th seed looped a double fault into the net to relinquish an intriguing opener in 46 minutes.
An exquisite approach and acute volley stole a break to love for Tsonga at 2-3. The confidence was oozing for the Frenchman, rattling a single-handed backhand winner down the line en route to levelling the Top 20 clash.
The next two sets followed familiar patterns, with clutch serving and very little opportunity to carve out a lead. Two tiebreaks ensued with two enthralling outcomes.
A piercing backhand passing shot gained the upper hand for 4-2 Kyrgios in the third set tiebreak, but back stormed Tsonga. Down a set point, Kyrgios connected with a bullet serve, to then unleash a fiercely whipped inside-out forehand winner.
The 22-year-old repeated the one-two combination before claiming the set by forcing Tsonga off balance with an arrowed backhand return.
Kyrgios then dismissed two early break points with successive scorching forehands, which was upped by Tsonga, who dismissed a trio of break chances by wielding his forehand.
World No.15 Tsonga was ruthless at the net to open up 5-2 in the fourth set tiebreak. This was when Kyrgios demonstrated his burgeoning on court stability and composure.
A passing shot ignited the fightback and at 5-5 a delicate drop shot enabled Kyrgios to swat away the volley for a match point.
One last Tsonga shot clattered into the net and Kyrgios released the pressure in an exuberant arm-pummelling celebration.
“I was getting prepared for the fifth set honestly,” added Kyrgios.” I thought I was in a lot of trouble, but I just stayed composed, made the returns and tried to fight it out.
The Australian No.1 advances to face third seed Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round, who he defeated en route to the Brisbane title earlier this month.
“It’s going to be tough. He’s one of the best athletes on Tour and had an unbelievable 2017. It’s the best of five sets, I think that favours him as he’s such an incredible athlete,” reflected the 17th seed. “He’s a good friend of mine, so I’m sure we’re both looking forward to it.”