In the worst first round imaginable for Nick Kyrgios, he has seen off his good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to advance to the second round of the US Open.
The players have known each other from juniors and had not met at the senior level until now.
“When we both saw the draw, it was a nightmare, honestly,” said Kyrgios. “We never want to play each other. I’ve just got so much respect for him. I can’t wait to get out there and play doubles with him on the right side of the net.”
Famously the ‘Special K’s’ had won the Australian Open doubles title to start the year.
That experience seems to have given Kyrgios a new appreciation of tennis and he has played at a high level in 2022, reaching the Wimbledon final and claiming the singles and doubles title in Washington.
Against Kokkinakis, Kyrgios didn’t face a break point against his formidable serve, and more impressive was that he wasn’t even taken to duece once in the match.
In the opening set it was Kyrgios that got a break of serve in the eighth game, the break point coming when Kokkinakis hit a backhand into the net. The break was sealed with a flashy forehand winner that Kokkinakis could only watch zip past him.
Kyrgios would then hold serve to take the first set 6-3 after 30 minutes.
The second set saw Kyrgios break to love in the opening game, from there it was a string of service holds for both players which eventually saw Kyrgios serve for the set at 5-4. He held to love to take a two sets to nil lead.
In the third set it was again looking ominous for Kokkinakis when he was 0-40 in the fifth game. To his credit he won that game to keep games on serve.
The players held serve all the way until the end of the 12th game, sending it to the breaker.
Kokkinakis served an Ace to get things started.
Kyrgios landed two first serves to take control of the next two points for a 2-1 lead. An unforced error from the Canberran saw the scores level at 2-2.
Kokkinakis kept a run of five straight first serves from either player as he forced an error from Kyrgios for 2-3.
Another first serve was landed to see Kyrgios take control of the point, a point he won for 3-3. A seventh straight first serve saw Kygios get on top for a 4-3 lead.
The serving clinic continued and it was 4-4 after attacking play from Kokkinakis forced an error.
Finally a first serve was missed, Kyrgios would take control of the point, eventually forcing an error from his opponent.
The mini break was all that Kyrgios needed as he stepped up to serve at 5-4. A big first serve setup a bounce smash for Kyrgios, which he sent into the stands. That brought up match point.
A wide serve that could not be returned by Kokkinakis saw Kyrgios claim a comfortable three set win.
“We just know each other’s games like the back of our hand,” said Kyrgios, who was out-aced, 14-13. “We’ve played together since we were about 9 years old. He knows my game well. I know his game extremely well. I just played the bigger points well early on. We’re going to play each other, hopefully, never again.”
Next up for Kyrgios will be France’s Benjamin Bonzi, the world no. 50. It will be their first meeting.