Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 September 2020

Australian Open: Nick Kyrgios wins 'insane' match to set up fourth round clash with Rafael Nadal

Karolina Pliskova was left counting the cost of a performance well short of her best as she passed up a golden opportunity to push on for a maiden Grand Slam title after losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Nick Kyrgios sinks to the ground after beating Karen Khachanov in the third round of the Australian Open. AP Photo
Nick Kyrgios sinks to the ground after beating Karen Khachanov in the third round of the Australian Open. AP Photo

Nick Kyrgios is known for bringing the fireworks to a tennis court, but even by his standards this was utterly remarkable.

"It was insane," the man himself said, struggling for words in his post-match interview after nearly four-and-a-half hours on court in his Australian Open third round epic against Karen Khachanov.

After two sets and six games, no one inside the Melbourne Arena would have expected this match to unfold the way it did. At that stage, Kyrgios was in cruise control, leading 6-2, 7-6, 4-2. In the end, the Australian had to dig deeper than ever to eliminate the Russian 16th seed 6-2, 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 7-6. The final set saw the world No 23 reel off three straight points to clinch the match 10-8 in the champions tiebreak.

For a player with an unfortunate reputation as a hot-head, the composure Kyrgios displayed - particularly after passing up match points in the third- and fourth-set tiebreaks - was astounding.

"Mate, it was crazy, I don't even know what to say right now, I have no words for how I'm feeling right now," Kyrgios said.

"This is epic, man, I don't even know what's going on. "[Khachanov] is an absolute warrior."

Visibly exhausted after his heroics, Kyrgios will need to recover quickly ahead of what is expected to be the tie of the fourth round against top seed Rafael Nadal.

Kyrgios and Nadal have a prickly relationship, the Australian last year describing the Spaniard as "super salty" and a "sore loser", while Nadal said Kyrgios "lacks respect" due to his conduct on court.

While insisting he hasn't started to think about facing Nadal, whom he has beaten three times in seven meetings, Kyrgios admitted he faces a tough challenge.

"He has a winning record against me," he said. "Whatever happens between us, he's an amazing player, he's arguably the greatest of all time."

Asked about 23rd seed Kyrgios after his match, Nadal was also diplomatic.

"When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour," Nadal said. "When he's doing the other stuff, of course I don't like."

Recovery shouldn't be a concern of Nadal's, though, after the world No 1 raced past compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena to reach the last 16 at Melbourne Park for a 13th time.

"My best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt," said Nadal. "I'm improving every day, so super happy. I did well on my serve and hit good forehands down the line, which is a key shot for me."

Joining Kyrgios and Nadal in the fourth round are Alexander Zverev, the German seventh seed, and fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev - both of whom produced routine wins on Saturday.

Zverev appears to have banished his disappointing form from the ATP Cup - where he lost all three singles matches - to thrash Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.

Medvedev was a similarly comfortable winner, defeating Australia's Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

In the women's draw, the top seeds continued to tumble, led by world No 2 Karolina Pliskova, who was stunned by Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6, 7-6.

"She was playing very well today. Maybe the best what she played against me so far," said Pliskova, who follows defending champion Naomi Osaka and American great Serena Williams out of the tournament.

"But let's say I was about 40 per cent today of my game, so of course then she can feel so much better if I just don't play [to the level] what I can play."

Reigning Dubai champion Belinda Bencic - seeded sixth in Melbourne - was subjected to the heaviest defeat of the day, the Swiss tumbling out 6-0, 6-1 to Estonia's Anett Kontaveit in 49 minutes.

Two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No 1 Garbine Muguruza offered a timely reminder of her talents with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-2 victory over fifth seed Elina Svitolina.

Meanwhile, 2018 finalist Simona Halep kept alive her bid for a third major title by easing past Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 6-4.

Updated: January 25, 2020 05:41 PM

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