Australia’s Nick Kyrgios had the joint jumping in John Cain Arena on day 5.
News came through earlier in the day about a Stage 4 lockdown in Victoria. It will initially run for five days which means no crowds.
Kyrgios came out firing breaking world no. 3 Dominic Thiem in the opening game of the match. He held serve to consolidate the break.
Both players would hold serve from that moment which saw Kyrgios take the first set 6-4.
Kyrgios would get a key break in the ninth game of the second set and then hold serve to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Thiem was now thinking how to breakdown the big serving Australian. He started hitting with more topspin from way back near the backstops.
“One thing I noticed about him maybe two sets to love down, he was always positive, he didn’t show any negative emotion,” said Kyrgios. “He knew there was along way to go in that match.”
Thiem tightened his service games to keep the pressure on Kyrgios and he won six consecutive service games to love across the third and fourth sets.
Kyrgios could have sent the Austrian home early. He had two break points in the opening game of the third set. A forced error and an unforced error saw the opportunities slip away.
The 2020 US Open champion showed when he won that title that he can fight back from a tough position, he did that again against the Australian.
Thiem broke for the first time in the second game of the third set and then just did not give Kyrgios a chance to break back.
In the fourth set Kyrgios had to fight off break points in the opening game, a game that last just over 11 minutes.
In the ninth game Thiem would earn three break points and he converted to serve for the set. Kyrgios just cannot keep his showman antics in the bag and played a questionable shot at a key moment.
With Kyrgios fighting hard to break back he did have a look at a break point at 30-40 but Thiem forced an error to save that point. The Austrian got the key service hold to level the match at 2-2.
With the match on the line Kyrgios started showing more energy and he held the opening game of the fifth set to love.
Thiem won his game just dropping a point. Another love service hold kept the Australian in front, but Thiem also showed he was not giving in easily as he held to love for 2-2.
The defining moment came in the seventh game when Thiem started hitting winners to pile on the pressure. He earned a breakpoint with a backhand winner but could not convert.
Thiem had another break point and this time saw a backhand error from Kyrgios hand the world no. 3 the game.
He showed Kyrgios that it was not going to be easy to break back as he held to love to consolidate the break.
Another hold from Kyrgios then saw the Austrian serving to move into the next round.
The best Kyrgios could do was reach 30-30 before a forced error and then a trademark Thiem backhand winner sealed the deal.
“Since US Open I know that impossible is nothing,” Thiem told Jim Courier on court after his win.
“He’s a heck of a player, he’s very composed, he’s so disciplined,” noted Kyrgios.
Kyrgios is teaming with fellow Aussie and close friend Thanasi Kokkinakis. They play their first-round match Saturday in a delayed match.
“I’m going to come with my head held high tomorrow, play some doubles,” Kyrgios said.
“(Then we’ll) see what tennis I’ll play this year. If I can continue to perform like that, I’m sure that the results will follow.”
Thiem hit 57 winners to 52 from Kyrgios but the key stat was the 28 unforced errors from Thiem and 47 from his opponent.
This was a high quality match with plenty of drama and a fitting send out for what could be the last big crowd of the 2021 Australian Open.