The Nick Kyrgios experience was a complete effect against Dominic Thiem, by the underarm genius that successfully closed the next place to the around-the-back, between-the-legs miss that ceded the third and so much more — to the joy of the Australian Open’s last spectators for a while.
Kyrgios, a 25-year-old Australian who’s part showman and part sideshow, had a grand ol’ time while he was away to a perfect beginning, egging on a rowdy, partisan crowd and building a two-set lead in the third round Friday against No. 2 seed Thiem, the reigning US Open winner and last year’s runner-up at Melbourne Park.
Unsurprisingly, the talented and tempestuous Kyrgios was decidedly less amused after his level of drama dipped, leading to a pitched racket, his habitual type of back-and-forth with the chair umpire, a couple of warnings that caused a point penalty — and a hard-to-swallow loss to Thiem with a score of 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
In Flushing Meadows in September, Thiem became the first man in 71 years to return to win the final after dropping the first two sets, so this was nothing new for him. And in calm comparison to this ever-animated Kyrgios, Thiem allowed his displays of emotion to a simple shake of a increased straight fist which marked his break to go up 4-3 in the fifth set after which the last stage.
This was Kyrgios’ second consecutive five-setter in 10,500-capacity John Cain Arena; at the prior round, he erased two match points en route to removing No. 29 Ugo Humbert.
This timehe had been the one who blew a lead, which might have been even more important had he not wasted a pair of break points at the start of the third set.
The scene was about three-quarters complete Friday; many in attendance weren’t mindful of being distant or wearing the masks that were to become mandatory at midnight to the state of Victoria. The state government has imposed a five-day lockdown because of an uptick in COVID-19 instances.
While competition at the tournament can continue, no spectators will be permitted at Saturday.
“This was a good last game before the lockdown,” Thiem said. “It’s really sad to say.”
So with one final night out for now, people were living their best lives.
They sang at changeovers, while Kyrgios sipped from a pop can. They jumped and screamed at Kyrgios’ winners. They pounded the backs of seats. They cheered Thiem’s mistakes. They booed close line calls that went against Kyrgios — although such decisions are decided by an automated method of cameras, not line candidates, in this function.
The spectacle started during the warm-up, when Kyrgios — sporting a beige sleeve on his left leg paused his clinic serves to wave his racket and ask his fellow Aussies for louder. They obliged, naturally, eliciting a significant smile from their man.
When Kyrgios broke serve in the match’s initial game, he drifted in delight and relished the cascading cheers, cupping his right hand on his ear to again implore for more — and, again, they complied.
His first game featured an underarm serve along with also a between-the-legs half-volley, neither of which worked — were they the last of those tricks he’d attempt.
When Thiem pushed a forehand outside to find broken and trail 5-4 in the second, Kyrgios cried”Let us go, baby!” As he strutted into the changeover. When the underarm genius ended the group, Kyrgios stretched his arms wide, as if to say”Are you not entertained?”
Afterwards, he questioned the loss of a point on a hindrance call, saying that his yell was not any louder or even more distracting to his competitor compared to other gamers’ grunts.
Thiem was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne Park a year ago and then went on to win his first Grand Slam title at the United States Open in September. He will now face Grigor Dimitrov to get a spot in the quarterfinals.
Definitely the biggest victory of the 27-year-old Karatsev’s livelihood came via a hard-to-believe margin of 50-5 in complete winners along with a lopsided score of 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
He’s only the fifth guy since 2000 to reach the round of 16 in his first appearance at a significant championship. He is also the primary qualifier to get that far at Melbourne Park because Milos Raonic a decade ago.
Karatsev had never beaten a player ranked higher than 48th. He will satisfy another seeded player using a quarterfinal berth at stake — No. 20 Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Schwartzman was a semifinalist at last year’s French Open and entered Friday with a 9-0 record against qualifiers in Grand Slam matches.
Formerly, Alexander Zverev needed just 1 hour43 minutes to conquer Adrian Mannarino at Rod Laver Arena and move on to the fourth round.
Zverev, the No. 6 seed that made the semifinals of last year’s tournament, had 19 aces and 35 winners en route to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory. He’s pursuing his first career Grand Slam title.
Zverev had three wins within Mannarino in 2020, such as a four-set victory in the next round of the US Open in September.
“I played three times this past year, plus they were all long and difficult matches. Now, I decided I’d hit the ball somewhat harder.”
Zverev, 23, next will face No. 23 seed Dusan Lajovic, who defeated Spain’s Pedro Martinez 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-1, 6-4.
In other men’s matches, No. 18 seed Dimitrov progressed to the fourth round if Pablo Carreno Busta retired because of an accident in the second set.
Canadian men went 2-for-3 within their third-round matches. The third dropped just because he played with a fellow Canadian.
Shapovalov had won both previous Grand Slam matches in the US Open in 2018 and 2019. “He’s beaten me pretty badly a few occasions,” Auger-Aliassime said.
He plays with Russian qualifier Karatsev next.
Canadian veteran Raonic progressed to the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the eighth time by beating Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. He’ll confront Djokovic next.
The 14th-seeded Raonic’s best performance in the Australian Open has been reaching the semifinals in 2016.