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Doubles wrap: Kyrgios, Kokkinakis keep the fun coming

  • Dan Imhoff

Nick Kyrgios' and Thanasi Kokkinakis' wild, improvised summer show has rolled on to see another day at the Australian Open, with the home heroes locking in a quarterfinal date on Sunday.

MORE: All the scores from Day 7 at AO 2022

The Aussie act brought the house down before packed stands for their third straight doubles triumph, a 6-4 4-6 6-4 result over 15th seeds Gonzalo Escobar and Ariel Behar. 

It set off raucous celebrations inside Kia Arena and backed up the former childhood on-court rivals and lifelong mates' upset of top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in the second round. 

MORE: AO 2022 men's doubles draw

"I've known the big fella since he was a chubby kid from Canberra," Kokkinakis said. 

"He's slim and looks good now. We've been through a lot together and we play for fun but this, coming out here … having the support, the atmosphere is unbelievable.

"The feeling we get when we walk through that tunnel ... I was looking at the stands before we even walked on the court. They showed it on the screen and you can't not get up for matches like this."

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis played to a packed house on Sunday

In a showdown that promised no shortage of flashy bursts of brilliance and animated crowd exchanges, Behar brought added flair with his bold and busy shirt bearing tiny llamas among its detailed design, the creative result of his wife Sabrina Sielecki's fashion label.

The Aussies were building pressure throughout the opening set and finally landed the first break of Escobar's serve in the ninth game before Kyrgios comfortably served it out after 36 minutes.

A shirt change for Behar from llamas to lightning bolts did no harm as the Ecuadorian-Uruguayan pair began to show more of the form that had carried them to two trophies last year and the Adelaide final leading and now settled, they broke Kokkinakis to level the contest.

Escobar had twice been broken already and when he conceded a third time on a double fault, the crowd hit fever pitch.

None of the four contenders had reached a major doubles quarterfinal and when Kyrgios thumped back-to-back aces to consolidate for 4-2 the finish line was in sight.

It fell to Kyrgios to punch the pair's ticket on serve and Kokkinakis, sporting rainbow wristbands ahead of AO Pride Day, landed the winning blow, lifting the crowd as one as he set a last-eight clash with sixth seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus.

"We just don't take anything for granted," Kyrgios said. 

"You never know how many matches you're going to play at the AO. We both lost early in singles but to come out there and have this atmosphere for a doubles match is insane. You don't get this anywhere else in the world."

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis face Tim Puetz and Michael Venus for a place in the semifinals

The 2013 junior Wimbledon doubles champions had not teamed up since last year's Australian Open, where Kokkinakis joked at the time their chat was "maybe one per cent" tactical, "definitely more rubbish".

Kyrgios said that percentage had shifted "for sure", with the pair locked in and enjoying a different mindset.

"I feel like favourites out there with doubles," Kyrgios said. 

"The way he's playing, he's obviously very confident over the last month he's had, which is amazing to see, but I don't know, I feel like we're locked in, we're definitely, I don't know, it's probably the best doubles we've played together. 

"And I know the crowd's a bit loose and stuff, but we are locking in in certain moments where in the past it's been tough to and I think that's come with experience as well." 

Earlier, Puetz and Venus advanced via a walkover against Australians Jason Kubler and Chris O'Connell, while 2015 champions Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini saved a match point to deny Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, 3-6 7-6(7) 6-3.

One half of last year's winning duo, Filip Polasek, and new partner, Australian John Peers, had few difficulties against two-time Roland Garros champions, Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, 6-1-6-2.

In women's doubles, defending champion Elise Mertens and new partner Veronika Kudermetova needed two hours to hold off Chinese 14th seeds Zu Yi-Fan and Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6(5) 6-4. 

MORE: AO 2022 women's doubles draw

Unseeded Kirsten Flipkens and Sara Sorribes Tormo breezed past Jacqueline Adina Cristian and Andrea Petkovic 6-1 6-2.