Oz Open: Young and free Nick Kyrgios makes Australians rejoice
Teenager Nick Kyrgios ensured his compatriots would wake up to celebrate their national day on Monday by saving a match point against Andreas Seppi to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday.
Melbourne: Teenager Nick Kyrgios ensured his compatriots would wake up to celebrate their national day on Monday by saving a match point against Andreas Seppi to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday.
Playing with the unencumbered freedom and brashness of youth, the 19-year-old had to battle his own demons to advance to the last eight with a 5-7 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) 8-6 win to overcome the Italian, who had upset Roger Federer in the third round.
"It`s crazy. I don`t think it`s sunk in yet," Kyrgios told reporters. "When I saw I had finally won the match it was incredible. It was the best feeling I ever had."
Kyrgios, who made the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year, spent much of the first two sets berating himself, producing outbursts of impressive swearing, and taking his frustration out on a racquet that earned him a warning from the umpire.
Once he settled down, however, he matched the smooth baselining Italian and whipped Hisense Arena, girt by green and gold wearing fans, into a patriotic fervour.
"They were unbelievable," Kyrgios said of the crowd. "I was definitely feeding off the crowd in the fourth, especially in the tiebreak it was massive.
"That was a momentum builder going into the fifth set."
That fervour could be explained by the fact Kyrgios was the country`s last hope at this year`s tournament after Bernard Tomic was beaten by seventh seed Tomas Berdych earlier.
The last time two Australian men had made it to the last eight in Melbourne was in 1987 and the country has been struggling for depth with their grand slam hopes typically resting on the pugnacious shoulders of Lleyton Hewitt.
Age, injuries and younger, more powerful, men have ensured the double grand slam winner`s career is drawing to an end, though the emergence of three upstart compatriots at Melbourne Park this week have left him optimistic for the future.
"Now that we`ve got some guys playing really good tennis at the moment, it`s an exciting time," he said of the play of Kyrgios, Tomic and 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkanakis, who made the second round.
The key for Australia`s future success, however, was to keep them grounded, said Tennis Australia`s new Director of Performance Pat Rafter.
"A lot of those guys have great potential to go on," Rafter said earlier in the week. "(But) we can`t get ahead of ourselves either.
"I think it`s important for these guys to understand ... we`re building towards something in the next five or 10 years."