Kyrgios Thrills Melbourne Fans, Djokovic Survives Tiafoe
Novak Djokovic survived a scare and Nick Kyrgios saved match points as day three at the Australian Open caught the attention of the crowds.
Defending champion and world number one Djokovic overcame Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3.
Australian Kyrgios then produced a thrilling five-set win over Ugo Humbert in front of a rowdy John Cain Arena.
Kyrgios showed his usual mix of fiery antics and exciting shots to beat the Frenchman 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.
He fell to his knees after winning the match before sitting in his chair and shaking his head in disbelief.
Kyrgios has often said that the John Cain Arena, which is open to general ticket-holders, is his favourite to play on because of the atmosphere.
With numbers at Melbourne Park restricted to up to 30,000 per day because of coronavirus – and falling well short of that so far this week – this was the first time anything resembling a ‘normal’ tennis crowd noise had been heard for months.
Home fans did not let up as they cheered a Kyrgios fightback from 5-4 down in the fourth set, before seeing him through a tie-break and, somehow, a winning fifth set.
“Honestly, if you were in my head, I was thinking about everything I was going to cop if I lost that match,” a disbelieving Kyrgios said.
“I don’t know what to say. I am lost for words.”
He will face last year’s finalist and US Open champion Dominic Thiem next, after the Austrian eased past Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 6-4 6-0 6-2.
Kyrgios smashed a racquet after losing the first set, was given a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and continually complained about the technology for net cords.
However, when he dialled into the match, the antics stopped. He served brilliantly, hitting 30 aces, and his swats from behind the baseline allowed him to hit 65 winners to run Humbert ragged.
With the crowd celebrating every Kyrgios point – and every error from Humbert – he broke early in the deciding set.
At several points in the match, Kyrgios was the one applauding his opponent’s shots as the crowd continued to barrack for the home favourite.
After holding his own match points, Humbert double-faulted to hand one to Kyrgios, before saving it with an ace.
The French 29th seed recovered to force Kyrgios to serve out the match, with the Australian looking shocked as Humbert sent a backhand long after three hours 39 minutes.
In hot conditions at Melbourne Park, Djokovic served 26 aces to Tiafoe’s 23 as the 33-year-old came through in three hours and 30 minutes.
“It was a very tough match and difficult conditions, while we had sun on the court it was very warm a lot of long rallies,” Djokovic said.
“I want to give a hand to Frances for a great fightback, it was a fantastic match.
“It is not the first time I am in this kind of situation but I was fortunate to get through the third set, it was anyone’s – high quality tennis, he gave it his all.”
American Tiafoe was upset at being handed a time violation and another led to the 23-year-old being docked his first serve in a game Djokovic went on to break in the fourth and final set. He also later received a code violation after an expletive-laden protest to the umpire.
“(It was) an unfortunate warning that took away his serve from him at 30-30 when I broke his serve,” Djokovic said. “That was unlucky because he deserved a first serve.”