Can charged up Kyrgios stop Thiem domi-nation?

  • Alex Sharp

Nick Kyrgios has the armoury to take down the very best.

The Australian has managed to defeat each member of the much heralded ‘Big Three’ and is now challenged with the latest major player on the men’s tour.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem versus Kyrgios was a match-up that lept off the draw sheet. Can the home charge rise the occasion once again?

Second-round contrasts

The world No.3 has frequently become embroiled in prolonged encounters early on in majors, but compiled a relatively routine victory on Wednesday. The Austrian had all the answers in a 6-4 6-0 6-2 scoreline over world No.70 Dominik Koepfer. 

Kyrgios’ route to the third round couldn’t have been more turbulent. A raucous John Cain Arena witnessed a miraculous escape on Wednesday night.

The 25-year-old, a quarter-finalist at his home slam in 2015, saved two match points in a 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6(2) 6-4 triumph over promising French youngster Ugo Humbert.

Good news for Aussie fans – he felt “fresher” at the end, despite three and a half hours of energy zapping action. 

Mutual respect and praise

Last year Thiem held a Q&A on his website and spoke highly of Kyrgios.

He is distinctive, you cannot replace him, he is totally unique! Tennis should be happy to have such a person. This sport hasn’t seen anyone like him before and probably never will. 

“People either hate him or they love him. Deep in his soul he is a very nice person. Some years ago we discovered the Acapulco night life together, that was awesome!”

The Austrian can expect another party on Friday night. 

What about NK? The 25-year-old is fully aware of the gravitas of the challenge to break down Thiem in the last 32.

“He's probably one of the most physical guys on tour. He trains like an absolute animal and he's an extremely good player.

“I have actually seen him progress. He's a bit older than I am. I actually saw him in juniors and then I saw him struggle for a couple years, futures, challies, and then to see him get to the top of the game. It's been actually pretty cool to see him develop and finally find what he needs to do to win matches. 

“He's consistent every day. And I actually have a lot of respect for him. I think his style of tennis is not easy to play. 

“Whatever happens I'm going to go out there, serve, play with instinct, and if it's enough, it's enough. If it isn't, I'm all right with that.”

Previous meetings

Their only professional match occurred in 2015 in Nice, but Kyrgios was forced to retire 3-4 in the opening set.

Key factors for a fourth-round ticket

I'm just hurting thinking about playing him right now.”

Kyrgios might have been joking in his press conference, but keeping pace with Thiem physically and mentally is a monumental task for any of the Tour.

There are no secrets with the world No.3, who narrowly fell to Djokovic in the AO 2020 final last summer. He has an extensive repertoire for attack, the single-handed backhand is a work of art, the versatile serve is rock solid, on top of his lung-bursting endurance levels.

You pretty much know what Thiem will deliver. 

As Kyrgios stated, he will play with “instinct.” If the swashbuckling style of his famous wins (think the end of the fourth and fifth sets against Humbert too), then he has all the tools to involve the crowd to rustle up another captivating contest.

The serve will be massive. 30 aces against Humbert frequently hauled the world No.47 out of trouble. But it was a relatively low 68 percent first serves landing.

Get more first serves in, play with swagger rather than frustration, involve the crowd and go full on attack. There’s the game plan for Kyrgios. It's not quite that simple...

Dominic will look for domi-nation, what can Kyrgios conjure up in response?