Tuesday 11 December 2018

Kyrgios left star-struck during success over Tsonga

Nick Kyrgios shows his delight. Photo: Getty Images
Nick Kyrgios shows his delight. Photo: Getty Images

Simon Briggs in Melbourne

Nick Kyrgios was determined not only to win yesterday against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 finalist here, but to do so in the coolest manner possible. The ultimate aim was to impress watching Hollywood star Will Smith.

As it happened, Kyrgios became quite heated at certain stages of his 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 victory.

After dropping his serve in the second set, he shouted at himself "Why the f*** did I play doubles?" And on several occasions, he yelled at the friends and family in his player's box to show more vocal support.

But Kyrgios still enjoyed the opportunity to bond with Smith, who sat right next to the court and often felt like a third participant in the drama.

"He's my favourite actor," Kyrgios said. "When I get asked if one person were acting your life, I always pick him.

"It was surreal seeing him. I was talking to him in the third set. I kept looking at him. I was like, 'I've got to break the ice, I've got to say something'. I met him after the match and he was really genuine.

"Every time he got shown on the screen, they cheered louder for him than any of the shots we were making. I was like, 'Man, you may as well just stay out here, they probably enjoy that more than the tennis'.

"I said, 'I watched a load of your movies a bunch of times'. It was pretty cringe, but it broke the ice."

As Kyrgios usually prefers to play on the more compact Hisense Arena, this was his first victory in the Rod Laver Arena as a professional, although he did collect the junior title there in 2013.

Kyrgios might have won fewer points than Tsonga - 142 to 144 - but his ability to lift his game at the big moments helped him navigate his way into the fourth round, where he will face ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov.

Tsonga is usually a genial presence on the court but his temper boiled over unexpectedly after the third-set tiebreak after he was heckled.

Tsonga yelled at the culprit to "come down here", and persisted until umpire Jake Garner gave him a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Afterwards, Tsonga explained: "On the set-point, in between the first serve and the second, the guy was talking to me and telling me, 'You are under pressure now', when I was bouncing my balls. I lost it and I got a little bit crazy."

Rafael Nadal swept into the last 16 with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Damir Dzumhur.

In the women's singles, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko suffered a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 defeat at the hands of Estonia's Anett Kontaveit.

The Latvian had her left thigh heavily strapped after losing the first set and, although she took the second comprehensively, it was Estonian Kontaveit who prevailed in the decider.

The result meant that only five of the top-16 women's seeds have survived the first five days.

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki is the only player in the bottom half to have made a Grand Slam final before.

She stayed on course to emulate her two appearances in the US Open showpiece with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Kiki Bertens.

Wozniacki, who had to come back from 1-5, 15-40 in the deciding set against Jana Fett in the second round, stepped up her game considerably and was a relatively comfortable winner against 30th seed Bertens.

Fourth seed Svitolina ended the run of her 15-year-old Ukrainian compatriot Marta Kostyuk with a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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