Call it Nickflix, if you like, as Nick Kyrgios returns on Friday for what looms as another captivating episode of his own Australian Open reality TV series at Melbourne Park.
Kyrgios’s show-stopping second-round victory over Ugo Humbert on Wednesday night was the thunderbolt that set the 2021 “COVID” Open alight.
After three days of largely sterile action, Kyrgios lit up John Cain Arena, creating arguably the most electric atmosphere in world sport since the pandemic took over last March.
The polarising but spectacular shot-maker sent fans inside the stadium into a frenzy and had viewers around the world glued to their TV sets for three and a half enthralling hours.
“The stadium definitely didn’t feel half full, that’s for sure,” Kyrgios said after crediting the raucous crowd for inspiring him to save two match points in the fourth set to set up a sequel with US Open champion Dominic Thiem.
Officials would be foolish to drag Kyrgios away from his beloved “people’s court” at Melbourne Park for his showdown with Thiem.
Either way, Australia’s tennis excitement machine is readying himself for another torrid encounter in his pursuit to reach the last 16 of the Open for a fourth time.
“He’s probably one of the most physical guys on tour. He trains like an absolute animal. I have a lot of respect for him,” Kyrgios said of the world No.3 and 2020 Open finalist.
“His style of tennis is not easy to play. He’s super physical.”
Encouragingly, Kyrgios was surprised to feel like he still had sufficient fuel in the tank for Thiem even after his epic five-set win over Humbert.
“For not playing in about 13 months, it’s pretty crazy that I actually felt like I looked the fresher of the two at the end of the match, which is mind boggling for me,” he said.
A quarter-finalist six years ago, Kyrgios says regardless of which court he plays on and the home support he draws, Thiem won’t be intimidated.
“No doubt he’s overcome some crowds against him,” he said.
“He’s had some great results and he’s played some of the best players.He’s one of the best players in the world so he’s for sure going to be able to rise to that occasion.
“He’s not going to be scared about it. He’s excited. That’s what makes him so good.
“He’s one of the players that loves to thrives in big-match situations. I know that. I know that he’s capable.
“You’re not going to make grand slam finals and win slams if you’re going to be scared of a little bit of an Aussie crowd.”
The winner will face either Grigor Dimitrov or Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals.
AUSSIES IN ACTION AT THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN ON FRIDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):
Nick Kyrgios v 3-Dominic Thiem (AUT)