Nick Kyrgios of Australia
TONY ASHBY / AFP
Nick Kyrgios raised Australia’s hopes when he defeated French powerhouse Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a battle of power on the Road Laver Arena.
Over a period of two hours and thirteen minutes, the two sluggers fired canons at each other but in the end the home-country favourite prevailed in four sets 7/6(4); 4/6; 7/6(8); 7/6(5).
In the Women’s Event, however, Elina Svitolina, the 4th seed, ended the dream run of 15- year old Ukrainian compatriot Marta Kostyuk, 6/2; 6/4.
The Kyrgios-Tsonga match had all the ingredients of a battle royale because the two players have much in common; especially their hard serves and forehand shots. Both men knew that a loss of serve was suicidal.
Thus it happened that the first set was decided by a tie breaker, in which a mini-break created the opportunity for Kyrgios to clinch the thirteenth game.
Tsonga fought back and took the second set, on a single break of serve. The third set also progressed to a service shoot-out in which only two points separated the duo. In the fourth set, there was no relenting in the blitz-Krieg. In the tie-break, Kyrgios held serve to lead 1-0.
Tsonga delivered on of his 28 aces to lead 2-1 and his opponent followed suit to lead 4-2 at the change-over. After the second change-over at 6 points apiece, Kyrgios secured the crucial mini-break. With the match on his racket, he delivered his 28th ace to clinch the match.
The scale of statistics titled in favour of the French gladiator. The only department he fared worse than Kyrgios was in double faults where he had one more than his opponent’s 3. He had a greater percentage of first serves and the points won thereafter. He hit 70 outright winners to Kyrgios’ 54. At the finishing line, Tsonga won a total of 195 points to 142 by the Aussie title hope.
It was a great outing for Australia.
The 17th seeded Kyrgios was making his third ever appearance on Rod Laver Arena. In 2016 he lost in the third round to Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic while Andy Murray defeated him in the quarter-finals in 2015.
The defeat of Marta Kostyuk dashed hopes of history being made, as happened in 1996 when Martina Hingis of Switzerland made it to the last eight at the tender age of 15 years and three months. This year, Marta played all through the qualifying rounds to the third round. Her pre-tournament ranking of 522 will come to a lower figure and the tennis world will hear much about Marta in the years to come.