This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020
Advertisement

Kyrgios seals first-round win at Australian Open after 'emotional couple of months' with bushfires

The 24-year-old enjoyed a straight sets victory over Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Kyrgios in action at the Australian Open.
Kyrgios in action at the Australian Open.
Image: AAP/PA Images

Updated Jan 21st 2020, 12:15 PM

AUSTRALIA’S NICK KYRGIOS put his country’s bushfire disaster behind him and gave home fans something to cheer about with a first-round win at the Australian Open Tuesday.

Long a polarising figure for his on-court antics, the enigmatic 24-year-old has won new fans for his efforts to mobilise support for victims of the deadly blazes, and he was welcomed onto Melbourne Arena by huge roars.

He thrived in the atmosphere, grinding down Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/1).

I was just really excited to get out here. Obviously a pretty emotional couple of months for all of us, so I just wanted to come out and put on a good performance,” said the Australian, who has never gone beyond the last eight at a Major.

“This is my favourite court in the world… I feel super comfortable. You guys are the best. I feel the support.”

Kyrgios said ahead of the tournament he was finding it hard to concentrate on his home Grand Slam after the emotions sparked by the fires that have devastated huge tracts of Australia.

But he rose to the challenge and the 23rd seed did so in largely drama-free fashion, keeping himself calm for most of the match.

The pair were locked at 2-2 before Kyrgios claimed a first break and then motored through his next service game, dropping one point on Sonego’s next serve to open a 5-2 lead before sealing the set.

They were inseparable in the second set as the lights on Melbourne Arena briefly went out, with coachless Kyrgios heard saying: “You know how hard it is to block that out, it’s impossible.”

But with ATP Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt watching from his box, he came through a tense tie-breaker to go two sets ahead.

Displaying all his tricks, including some trademark “tweeners”, Kyrgios closed out the match in another testing tiebreaker as the crowd went wild, with a second round clash looming against either France’s Gilles Simon or Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.

tennis-jan-21-australian-open Nadal also made a winning start at the tournament in Melbourne. Source: Jason Heidrich

With Kyrgios not facing a single break point, television commentator John McEnroe lavished praise on his booming serve.

“He has actually got one of the best serves I’ve ever seen,” said the tennis legend. “Top 10, ever. He has got pop. He can do anything with it.”

Elsewhere, Nadal turned on the style as he launched his bid for a record-equalling 20th Major title at the Australian Open today, but falling star Maria Sharapova hit a career low.

Nadal, one shy of Roger Federer’s Grand Slam mark, dropped only five games as he swatted aside Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in just over two hours at a sunny Rod Laver Arena.

“It was a positive start,” said the reigning Roland Garros and US Open champion, wearing a bright pink singlet and matching trainers.

“What you want in the first round is just to win, and it’s better if it’s in straight sets.”

He joins Federer and defending champion Novak Djokovic in round two in Melbourne as the Big Three look to tighten a stranglehold that has brought them all but one of the last 14 Australian Open titles.

Nadal, the first player to be world number one in three different decades, is still thriving at 33 but it’s a different story for five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova, 32.

Sharapova, playing on a wildcard as she wrestles with a shoulder problem, lost 3-6, 4-6 to Croatian 19th-seed Donna Vekic, making her an opening-round loser at three straight Grand Slams for the first time.

The future looks uncertain for the former world number one, who won Wimbledon when she was just 17 but has not reached a Grand Slam final since she lifted the 2014 French Open trophy.

“I can speak about my struggles and the things that I’ve gone through with my shoulder, but it’s not really in my character to,” Sharapova said.

“I was there, I put myself out there (playing). As tough as it was, I finished the match — it wasn’t the way that I wanted.”

australian-open-day-2 Maria Sharapova reacts during his first-round loss to Donna Vekic. Source: AAP/PA Images

Britain’s Johanna Konta, a two-time Slam semi-finalist, also fell at the first hurdle as she battles to overcome a knee problem, losing 4-6, 2-6 to unseeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur.

On a bumper day of 96 first-round matches, after rain wiped out half of Monday’s schedule, former US Open champion Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic both moved safely through.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini, two sets down against America’s Reilly Opelka when their match was suspended on Monday, returned to win it in five on Tuesday after a stormy encounter when both players argued furiously with the umpire.

“You’re pathetic. You give me one warning after one throw (of my racquet). He’s thrown his three or four times, bro,” Opelka, who stands 6ft 11ins to Fognini’s 5ft 10ins, told the chair official.

A new star emerged in 18-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, last year’s NextGen champion, who earned his first Grand Slam victory 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-4 against Australia’s Max Purcell.

Later, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who has spearheaded fundraising efforts for the country’s deadly bushfire disaster, opens his campaign against Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who took Nadal to five sets in last year’s US Open final, will play 2019 Melbourne quarter-finalist Frances Tiafoe of America.

And former world number one Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion, will round off the evening on Rod Laver Arena against unseeded Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto.

Pollution from the bushfires, which dominated the build-up to the first Grand Slam of the year, was blown away by Monday’s heavy rain.

© – AFP, 2020

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (4)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel