Australia’s Nick Kyrgios won an electric four-setter against his childhood idol, France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, to advance to the fourth round at the Australian Open on Friday.
The 17th seeded Kyrgios needed three tiebreakers to win a crunch match with the former finalist Tsonga 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.
Tsonga, the 15th seed, had looked primed to take the fight into a fifth set when he stormed to a 5-2 lead in the final tiebreak, but Kyrgios roared back to seal it when the Frenchman hammered the ball into the net on the first match point
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, tried 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.
It was another hot day in Melbourne and the heat caused problems for players earlier in the day, but it wasn’t a factor for Rafael Nadal this time against Damir Dzumhur.
Nadal reached the fourth round in Australia for the 11th time with the 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 win, and leveled his career head-to-head record with Dzumhur.