There were some big names scheduled for the evening in which Nick Kyrgios, out in the Melbourne Arena, featured largely to the delight of a very partisan crowd who created an excellent atmosphere – one which has been so sorely missed this past year.
That tends to be my career and I live to fight another day and hopefully I can continue to play tennis in front of you guys, Nick Kyrgios
And the Australian certainly rose to the occasion as he fought back to stun Frenchman Ugo Humbert 5-7 6-3 3-6 7-6(2) 6-4 after three hours and 25-minutes.
The match had everything the public wanted from the controversial Aussie, a smashed racket, heated discussions with the umpire and underarm serving which all contributed to Kyrgios producing a gritty performance to increase the fans’ fervour
Twice the unseeded Australian faced match point in the fourth set against French 29th seed and twice he averted defeat.
When asked how he had done that in his on-court interview, the 25-year-old Kyrgios replied: “Honestly, I don’t know how I did that. I don’t even know what to say, I’m lost for words. That is one of the craziest matches I’ve ever played,”
“It was a strange match, if you guys were inside my head, there were some dark thoughts in there.
“That tends to be my career and I live to fight another day and hopefully I can continue to play tennis in front of you guys,” he added, to another huge round of applause from the faithful.
But he gave credit to his 21-year-old opponent.
“He’s one heck of a player. He’s one of the most improved players from last year, played some amazing tennis,” continued Kyrgios. “I didn’t play much for a year, he’s been great, but I guess the one thing I had on was experience. I’ve been through so much on this court, the comebacks, I just tried to draw upon that.”
Kyrgios’ reward is a third-round against third seed and reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem who was described by Kyrgios as ‘one of the best players in the world’.
While one Aussie hung on another, wild card Alex Bolt crashed out to the former semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(1) 6-1 6-2 who, having survived the opening set, the Bulgarian cruised through to make the next round where he faces the 15th seed Pablo Carreno-Busta of Spain who beat Jiri Vesely 6-3 7-6(3) 2-6 6-4.
“It’s been a long road the last two or three months, I’m just very happy to be through. It’s never easy against a home crowd favourite,” said Dimitrov, a former world No.3. “I just want to make the most of this opportunity.”
Meanwhile world No.7 Alex Zverev showed plenty of patience against the big serving American Maxime Cressy who continually rushed the net.
Zverev, a former semi-finalist, eventually made light work of the serve volleyer to win 7-5 6-4 6-3 and then commented
“He was an extremely difficult player to play against, having just come out of college,” said the German.
“I know his kind of game very well, I have my brother in the box (Mischa) who plays similar, so I had to be patient and wait for my chances. I’m very pleased how I played.”
Zverev, who takes on 32nd seed from France Adrian Mannarino next, is still rueing over his defeat by Thiem at last year’s US Open final.
“I still have that in the back of my mind. I was two points away from being a Grand Slam champion,” he said.
“I take that into this year, it’s definitely a motivation. I’m not the favourite, but I’m going to do everything I can.”
In other action on Day 3, Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman beat Frenchman Alexandre Muller 6-2 6-0 6-3; and Pedro Martinez of Spain defeated Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori 1-6 7-6(5) while Serbian Dusan Lajovic ousted Alexander Bublic of Russia 6-4 7-6(4) 4-6 6-3.