MELBOURNE, Australia – The audacious between-the-legs shot by Nick Kyrgios. His missed match point. The nerveless break when Andreas Seppi was serving for a second-round upset win.
Three days into the Australian Open, Seppi’s 1-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-2, 10-8 comeback win Wednesday over the enigmatic Kyrgios rated as the match of the tournament.
Purely for talking points, it’ll be hard to beat.
The night match on a crowded Hisense Arena featured a stunning down-the-line forehand winner from Seppi to save a match point in the fifth set.
Two games earlier, when Seppi was serving for the match, an apparently nonchalant Kyrgios hit a “tweener” from near the baseline, defying tennis wisdom. He won the point, and it will feature on highlight clips. But the No. 14-seeded Kyrgios missed a bigger opportunity at his home Grand Slam.
The 21-year-old Australian was broken in the 11th game of the fifth set. Serving for the match at 6-5, Seppi was broken in a game that started with that unusual Kyrgios shot.
Seppi, who have his 33rd birthday next month, subsequently saved a match point with the forehand down the line. He later explained it was a shot he had “missed a hundred times in practice [but] I made it today in an important moment.”
He held serve, returning the pressure to Kyrgios. A quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 2014 and the Australian Open in 2015, Kyrgios double-faulted on break point to hand Seppi a 9-8 lead.
The 89th-ranked Seppi duly clinched the three-hour, nine-minute match with an ace.
Kyrgios, who sustained a knee injury playing basketball several weeks ago, was circumspect about the loss.
“It’s obviously disappointing, but it was ultimately a pretty fun match,” Kyrgios said. “He’s a great guy and he deserved it, so … I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It could have gone either way.”
Kyrgios, tipped to have all the talent to win a Grand Slam title but not the temperament, was suspended by the ATP Tour following the Shanghai Masters last October when he sped through a match against Mischa Zverev with little effort or apparent care whether he won or lost.
Krygios was fined more than US$40,000 and suspended for eight weeks, a period that was later reduced to three when he agreed to consult with a sports psychologist. He said Wednesday he’s still seeing the psychologist and “it’s going very well.”
His on-court demeanor has divided public opinion. On Wednesday, he was mostly on his best behavior, except for some shouts to his courtside box.
There were some boos from the crowd at the end, and Krygios noticed.
“Obviously it’s not the greatest thing to hear,” he said. “I didn’t have the best preparation coming into the Australian Open. Pretty banged up, my body. But getting booed off, definitely not the best feeling.”
He said his knee issues would likely force him to pull out of doubles with his partner Daniel Evans.
Seppi had a match point against Kyrgios two years ago but lost. He settled the score in Melbourne, and will advance to the third round against Steve Darcis.
“He played a few good points, especially the first one, the tweener, I didn’t expect that,” Seppi said. “It was important to keep on going, keep focusing.
“The last time I was two sets to love up and I lost … and I just kept telling myself ‘keep fighting.’ I don’t know, maybe it was meant to be.”