Many tennis fans were beginning to wonder whether the brilliantly talented but controversial Nick Kyrgios would ever fulfil his vast potential on any of the biggest stages of the world. At 26 years old, the clock was beginning to tick. They needn’t have worried.
This week has been a dream come true and I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else. I'm just super happy. I don't know how we're doing this or what's going on. Nick Kyrgios
In Melbourne Park at the weekend, partnering fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, that question was decisively answered when they defeated compatriots Matt Ebden and Max Purcell in straight sets in the doubles final.
His joy at claiming his first Grand Slam title on home soil partnering his long-time friend, was there for all to see.
“This week has been a dream come true and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else,” said Kyrgios, acknowledging Kokkinakis. “I’m just super happy. I don’t know how we’re doing this or what’s going on.”
The bond between the two ‘Special K’s”, as they were dubbed during the event, goes back to their junior days.
Sharp observers of the game would have identified their doubles potential as far back as Wimbledon in 2013 when the pair won the junior Grand Slam title on grass. That same year, Kyrgios also defeated Kokkinakis for the Australian junior singles title. They became firm friends then and reaped the rewards of that friendship in Melbourne at the weekend.
No wonder Kokkinakis exclaimed, “Nick, I love you brother. I can honestly say we did not expect to even come close to this.”
Australian tennis has had to wait a long time, a quarter of a century in fact, for home grown Grand Slam doubles success. The last Australian pair to win the title was Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde back in 1997!
Along the way towards their unexpected success, Kokkinakis and Kyrgios eliminated four seeded teams, including the top seeded Croatian pairing of Mate Pavic and Nikola Mectic in round two, and third seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina a round later.
With home support growing as the week wore on, they went on to edge their fellow Aussies, Matt Ebden and Max Purcell 7-5 6-4 in the 95-minute final.
A decade separates 34-year-old Ebden and his playing partner but that didn’t stop them demolishing three seeded pairings including British hopes Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski and their respective partners, American Rajeev Ram and Dutch player Wesley Koolhof, on their own journey to the final.
In the women’s final, No.1 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, runners up in this event last year, claimed their first Aussie Open doubles title with victory over Kazakhstan’s Anna Danilina and Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the final.
But it was not easy, the Czech pairing having to come from behind to defeat their opponents, who came into the final on their 11th consecutive victory, a run which saw them lift the Sydney doubles title just a week before.
In Krejcikova, 26 and Siniakova, 25, though, they met their match, the Czechs winning, 6-7 6-4 6-4 in a match which lasted two-hours 42-minutes in stifling heat on Rod Laver Arena. It was the first set that they had dropped all week.
“We’ve been playing together for such a long time,” said Krejcikova after their victory. “I’m still happy that we are still working really, really well together and our cooperation is only going up.”
Siniakova responded, “A big thanks to Barbora, because we are team-mates for a long time and it’s really hard. It’s not easy every day but we try to support each other and today we were fighting really hard. We needed to push each other.”
The pair comfortably defeated the No 3 seeds, Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Elise Bertens of Belgium in straight sets in the semis while Haddad Maia and Danilana took three sets before overcoming the second seeded pairing of Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and her Japanese American partner, Ena Shibahara, 6-4 5-7 6-4.
A career Grand Slam of doubles titles now beckons the Czechs if they can win at the US Open later this year.
In the mixed doubles final, France’s Kristina Mladenovic and Croatia’s Ivan Dodig disappointed home fans by defeating Aussie wild cards Jaimee Fourlis and Jason Kubler 6-3 6-4 in just 78-minutes. It was Mladenovic’s second mixed title, to add to her six other Grand Slam doubles titles. She last won the mixed back in 2014, partnering Daniel Nestor to win her first Australian title.
“It feels amazing to hold the trophy again,” said Mladenovic. “It’s always so prestigious to win Grand Slams. As a kid, that’s what you dreaming of. I didn’t play mixed for a long time. To partner with Ivan, he’s really a dear friend, someone I really look up to and respect.”