Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios ended Malek Jaziri’s inspired run in the third round of the Australian Open yesterday preventing his opponent from becoming the first Tunisian to make the last 16 at a major.
Kyrgios, who admits he was already dreaming about facing Roger Federer in the fourth round before he even took the court to face Jaziri, overcame some back problems en route to dismissing the North African 6-3, 7-6 (8), 6-1.
Playing in breezy conditions, amidst constant “whoop there it is” chants from the Aussie crowd, the home favourite recovered from a 0-4 deficit to take the second-set tiebreak. Both Kyrgios and Jaziri required medical attention throughout the match, the latter suffering a hip injury that hampered him in the third set.
Kyrgios later explained that his back, which forced him out of the Hopman Cup earlier this month, tightened during the match, which is why he needed a medical timeout.
“I'm obviously getting by, but I don't think I'm moving 100 per cent to my ability,” said the 19-year-old, who next faces Andreas Seppi after the Italian shocked Federer earlier in the day.
“It's hard not to think about playing possibly the greatest of all time. Everyone wants to play Roger. I can only dream about what Seppi is feeling right now to beat him in four sets on Rod Laver. That's massive for him.”
Jaziri, who had his volunteer-coach Goran Ivanisevic in his box during the match, was disappointed with the loss and rued his missed chances in the tiebreak. The Tunisian, who is the first Arab in 11 years to make a grand slam third round, had never hit on Margaret Court Arena prior to this match and admits it made for a nervy start for him.
Meanwhile, No6 seed Andy Murray flew past Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-1, 7-5 to set-up a mouth-watering showdown with Bulgarian No10 seed Grigor Dimitrov, who survived a major scare against Marcos Baghdatis before pulling through 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. “Matches like that really define I think who you are and how you want to be,” said a proud Dimitrov.
Another Aussie made it through yesterday, Bernard Tomic, who beat his big-serving countryman Sam Groth 6-4, 7-6(8), 6-3. Tomic later criticised Groth’s game saying “it wasn’t tennis” and relied too much on serve-and-volley.
"Today was not really gonna be tennis. It was just like return. I would have loved to play tennis today with long rallies. It would have been good. But today was just return," said Tomic.
Kyrgios stuck up for Groth afterwards, responding to Tomic’s comments by saying: “Sam has got the style of tennis where he has got to serve and volley a lot. I guess Bernard has to accept that. Not everyone is as talented as he is. He's one of the most talented guys I've ever seen to step on a tennis court. I don't know why he would be complaining. He had a comfortable win in straight sets.”
Tomic will be facing Berdych for a third time and the 22-year-old German-born Australian lost their previous two meetings, which both came at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2014.
He plans on taking advice from his veteran compatriot Lleyton Hewitt when they practice together today.
“I'm hitting with Lleyton tomorrow, which is very good for me. Talk to Rusty to me about playing Tomas. Yeah, I'm excited for this next round. Targeting to win, and we'll see,” said Tomic.
“Berdych has been many, many years, last three or four years, inside the top six. It's not easy to play him. You have to play well. You have to serve well, use your opportunity when it comes. He hits the ball so fricking hard. It's a big difference to any other player.”