Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has delighted the crowd at John Cain Arena with a fighting five set win against France’s Ugo Humbert.
France’s world no. 34 was serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set and held two match points. He tightened up and Kyrgios lifted hitting some great shots to keep his Australian Open campaign alive.
The opening set saw Humbert, a two time title winner in 2020, hit 15 winners and winning 86 per cent of first serve points. He offered just one break point opportunity to Kyrgios which he saved when hitting a forehand winner.
Kyrgios fought off a break point in the tenth game of the opening set but he wasn’t able to do it again in the twelfth game. He made some poor shot choices including a drop shot that just sat up and said hit me. Humbert did just that as he broke for a 7-5 first set after 42 minutes.
Umbert was under pressure in the opening game of the second set after jumping out to 40-0. He was taken to deuce before serving an Ace for AD and taking the game after an unforced error from the Australian.
Umbert hit three winners in the next game to push Kyrgios to deuce.
In the third game Kyrgios got the key break when back-to-back unforced errors from the Frenchman handed the Australian the game.
Kyrgios then held his serves to level the match and pump up the crowd despite looking a bit troubled by his right leg at times.
In the third set. Humber broke to move to a 5-3 lead, he held to love to calmly take the set.
Things were not looking good for the world no. 47 from Canberra when Humbert broke Kyrgios in the opening game of the fourth set. Humbert was striking the ball well.
Humbert consolidated the break to lead 2-0. At 4-3 with Humbert serving Kyrgios was applying the pressure. He jumped out to 15-40 but wasn’t able to convert either of those chances. Another came a few points later. Again he was denied.
A pair of Aces and a winner from Humbert saw him escape that game with a hold.
Kyrgios held comfortably to put the pressure back on the Frenchman as he had to serve for the match.
Humbert stood at the service line at 40-30 with his first match point. Kyrgios was able to force an error to save that. A Kyrgios unforced error presented Humbert another opportunity to take the match.
Humbert served well and made his way to the net. With little margin for error Kyrgios slotted a backhand passing shot into the open court. The crowd was going crazy as the winners flowed from the racquet of the local hero.
Job done and the break back was wrapped up.
Kyrgios fell behind 0-30 in his next service game but yet again his monster serves saved him and he was able to hold to take a 6-5 lead. Humbert would hold to take the set into a tiebreaker.
Kyrgios dominated the breaker to level the match. Despite a COVID-19 restricted crowd, the joint was jumping with excitement as Kyrgios had lifted and he was looking energised.
“The only thing I really had on him today was experience,” Kyrgios said. “I have been in so many big matches, and on that court in particular, two sets to love down, winning. I’ve just been through so much on the court, I just felt like I was an old savvy veteran who had experience over him.
“I was just trying to draw from experience, trying to make him play as much as I could, and then I somehow got out of jail today. Honestly, it’s surreal.”
Kyrgios hit 14 winners to eight in the deciding set and has seven unforced errors to eight from Humbert.
The key game was the third when Kyrgios hit back to back winners to setup two break points. An unforced error from Humbert gave Kyrgios the upper hand. He held to love to consolidate the break.
Kyrgios had another break point in Humbert’s next service game but wasn’t able to convert.
Another love service game for Kyrgios and he was closing in on a fantastic victory.
He would barely drop a point as he continued to hold serve to seal a 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory in 3 hours 25 minutes.
It was great to hear at one stage the umpire asking the crowd to be quiet. Melbourne was alive again at a major sporting event.
“The crowd was awesome tonight,” Kyrgios acknowledged. “That court is so special. I have had so many good memories on it. The crowd was awesome – half packed and it felt like it was a full stadium. I got goosebumps towards the end.”
World No.3 Dominic Thiem awaits in the third round. The US Open 2020 champion won his only previous meeting against Kyrgios, which was in 2015, via retirement.
“He trains like an absolute animal,” Kyrgios noted of last year’s finalist. “He’s consistent every day and I actually have a lot of respect for him.”