Nick Kyrgios has survived a gruelling five-set match against Russia’s Karen Khachanov at the Australian Open to move through to a blockbuster clash with world number one Rafael Nadal in the round of 16.
Kyrgios seemed headed for victory after winning the first two sets and earning his first match point in the third, but the tenacious Khachanov fought his way back into the encounter to force a deciding fifth set.
Just 24 hours after John Millman pushed Roger Federer to a fifth-set tiebreak, Kyrgios and Khachanov found themselves in the same situation, with the Australian coming through to win 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (6/8), 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (10/8) in four hours and 26 minutes on Melbourne Arena.
Kyrgios said he thought he was down and out after the match moved the fifth set.
“I was losing it mentally a little bit,” Kyrgios said in his courtside interview.
“It wasn’t easy losing the third and losing the fourth after having match points. But my team, my support team, you guys willed me over the line.
“I thought I was going to lose, honestly.”
The match did not lack any drama — a time violation and an injury concern testing Kyrgios’s patience — and the 10-point tiebreak in the fifth set was as pulsating as what took place the previous night when Federer got over the line against the gutsy Millman.
Kyrgios rushed out to 3-0 lead, only for the 16th-seeded Khachanov to win the next four points and seize the advantage.
A tit-for-tat pattern followed and the decisive moment came when Kyrgios levelled at 8-8 on Khachanov’s serve, before enjoying his third match point when the Russian drove a backhand return into the net.
Kyrgios served for the match at 9-8 and sealed the victory much to the delight of the crowd on his preferred Melbourne Arena.
Afterwards, the 23rd seed gave special praise to the beaten Khachanov, who was playing his second consecutive five-set match.
“He is a warrior, he is going to have an unbelievable year and he will be one to do something special,” Kyrgios said.
Kyrgios will now focus on what is a much-anticipated meeting with Nadal on Monday.
Nadal leads their head-to-head meetings 4-3 and it will be the first time they have faced off since their Wimbledon encounter last year, when Nadal won in four tight sets in the second round.
“He [Nadal] is an amazing player, he is arguably the greatest of all time,” Kyrgios said.
“He is a champion. I will do everything I can and hopefully give everything I have and hopefully it will be enough.”
Kyrgios on top in first two sets
Kyrgios claimed the first set on the back of securing a double break of the Khachanov serve, however there was some concern in the seventh game when he began rubbing the top of his left hamstring.
He was clearly in discomfort and after winning the game on his serve he left the court to receive treatment during a medical timeout.
Kyrgios returned minutes later and broke Khachanov for a second time to take out the opening set.
Games in the second proceeded on serve until a tiebreak was called for to decide the set, with Kyrgios producing some exquisite stroke play with an air of nonchalance to exert his dominance over Khachanov, who at one stage threw his racquet to the ground in frustration.
The third set also came down to the a tiebreak after both Kyrgios and Kachanov dropped serve.
Kyrgios trailed early but he recovered to have a match point at 6-5 on Khachanov’s serve, however the world number 17 won the next three points to take the tiebreak and stay alive in the contest.
Khachanov required a medical timeout for treatment on his right shoulder during the fourth set but otherwise he was showing few signs of fatigue, despite taking over fours hours to get past Swede Mikael Ymer in their second-round match.
He seemingly had Kyrgios on the back foot at 3-3 in the fourth when he earned two break points, but the Canberran served his way out of troubled waters to hold.
Kyrgios’s emotions threatened to boil over during his next service game when he received a time violation from the chair umpire.
He had a cut on his right hand that was bleeding and claimed he delayed the beginning of a point because he did want a ball kid to touch his bloodied towel.
Kyrgios lost his cool as he remonstrated with the chair umpire, but recovered sufficiently to go on to win the game and lead 5-4 on serve.
The set descended into another tiebreak with Kyrgios having another match point at 7-6, only for Khachanov to rebound and level at two sets apiece.
Story Credit: abc.net.au