We're counting down the Top 10 matches of 2020 from Nov. 30 through Dec. 11. Click here to read each selection.
According to its winner, there was a definite theme to this match:
“It was crazy,” Nick Kyrgios said, a few seconds after arriving in the interview room at Melbourne Park in the early hours of the morning on January 25. Then he said it again. And again.
“Yeah, that was definitely one of the craziest matches I’ve ever been a part of.”
“It was insane.”
“The level at the end was crazy.”
“Yeah, it was crazy.”
The numbers back up Kyrgios’s claims. This third-round match lasted four and a half hours. Kyrgios hit 97 winners and 33 aces, while his opponent, Karen Khachanov, hit 75 and 21. Kyrgios was broken just once in 28 service games, averaged 127 m.p.h. on his first serve, and backed it up with usual array of drop shots, tweeners, underhand serves, fake underhand serves, and various other forms of creative tennis insouciance. Kyrgios also argued with the chair umpire over a time violation, called for the trainer for a leg issue, and let a two-set lead slip before closing it out in maximally dramatic fashion in the fifth. As TV commentator Robbie Koenig put it, the Canberra native “sent the crowd into a religious fervor” with his win. For good measure, a fight broke out in the stands along the way.
In other words, this one had everything you would expect from a Kyrgios night match at the Australian Open. Everything except the bad stuff, that is. In his previous match against Khachanov, in Cincinnati in 2019, Kyrgios had blown up at chair umpire Fergus Murphy, smashed multiple racquets, and been hit with $168,000 in fines and a suspended 16-week ban from the tour. This time Kyrgios kept himself mostly under control, in part because of two big incentives: He had an Aussie audience behind him, and, if he won, he had a date with Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.
But Kyrgios wasn’t the only player in Melbourne Arena the night, and wasn’t the only to put on a show. Khachanov had won his previous match, over Mikael Ymer, 10-8 in a fifth-set tiebreaker. But even down two sets against Kyrgios, and playing the equivalent of an away Davis Cup match, the Russian refused to quit. By hanging in, he made this a match to remember. He won the third, 8-6 in a tiebreaker. He won the fourth, 9-7 in a tiebreaker, and saved a match point along the way. In the fifth-set tiebreaker, he came back from 0-3 down to lead 4-3. Khachanov pushed as far as he could, before his exhausted backhand flew wide on Kyrgios’s third match point. According to Kyrgios, Khachanov’s effort inspired him to stick it out himself.
“He’s not given enough credit,” Kyrgios said. “He played like four hours in his previous match. To come out and put on a performance like that, I thought the level at the end was crazy.”
“Yeah, I mean, the least I could do was go out there and give everything I have.”
Like the No. 10 match on our list, Roger Federer’s five-set win over Tennys Sandgren in Melbourne, Kyrgios-Khachanov comes from the Before Times, when humans gathered in arenas to watch sporting events. It’s also one of those sporadic examples of what Kyrgios can do in an arena filled with people, when he’s in the mood, and when he has a chance to play an even bigger match, against someone like Nadal. Kyrgios would lose to Rafa in the next round, and wouldn’t play another completed singles match in 2020. In February, the world will finally come back to him in Australia. We’ll be waiting for the craziness to ensue.骚虎视频