Love him or hate him, Nick Krygios is box office stuff. So rarely out of the headlines, the Australian put on a typical display on home soil on Wednesday, thrilling the home fans who had made it into the lively John Cain Arena as he beat Frenchman Ugo Humbert over five sets to reach the third round of the Australian Open. But, as ever with Krygios, it wasn’t straightforward.
Once he’d thrown in his now trademark underarm serve early in the first set, it never looked like being a quiet day at the office for Krygios. After losing the opening set 7-5, he utterly obliterated his racquet and was given a point penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour, but he later began to find his rhythm after falling two sets to one down.
Kyrgios saved match points in the fourth before winning it thanks to a tie-break, and then in the fifth set he showed just how good he can be. His passing shots were so accurate Humbert stood no chance as the crowd roared the home favourite to victory, making a sound we have become unfamiliar with in sport over the past 12 months. And boy did it sound good.
After finally putting the tie to bed to book a meeting with Dominic Thiem in the last 32, Kyrgios sat in disbelief with his head in his hands. "Honestly, if you were in my head, I was thinking about everything I was going to cop if I lost that match, I don't know what to say. I am lost for words."
With 30 aces and 65 winners, we saw further suggestions that when Kyrgios performs at his best, he is a match for anybody in the world. It is just a shame those moments of brilliance are so often lost due to his poor attitude and on-court controversy.
Elsewhere Novak Djokovic, the 11/10 favourite with Betfred, made it through after a tough four-set battle against Frances Tiafoe in which the second and third sets were decided by tie-breaks. The Frenchman felt hard done by in the final set as he was penalised for a time violation which saw him lose his first serve and, in turn, his service game to the world number one. Djokovic struggled at times with the 30C heat, but managed to keep his cool and his title defence alive.
One high-profile name who is out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year is Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss lost a fifth-set tie-break to Marton Fucsovics, even though the 29-year-old Hungarian claimed following the match that he “felt like I was dying” having come through two five-setters in back-to-back rounds with temperatures soaring.
Meanwhile, Venus Williams was also dumped out of the competition in swift fashion, losing 6-1, 6-0 to Sara Erani having played the match to its conclusion despite suffering an obvious ankle injury. Petra Kvitova’s exit was perhaps the biggest shock though, as she lost to Sorana Cirstea in three sets. Simona Halep took victory from the jaws of defeat against Ajla Tomlkjanovic to progress along with Serena Williams, 4/1 tournament favourite Naomi Osaka and last year’s finalist Garbine Muguruza.
Serena in particular seems to be making fine progress, spending just 125 minutes on court so far to coast into the third round, where she will face Russian Anastasia Potapova. The American is 8/1 third-favourite with Betfred to claim her 24th Grand Slam title and a first since returning from maternity leave in 2018, having reached four finals since then without victory.