Nothing it seemed, not even the 42-degree heat, was going to stop Australia’s Nick Kyrgios on his Melbourne Park debut in the men’s singles, as the teenager ran out a four-set winner over German veteran Benjamin Becker on Tuesday.
Two aces on the last two points of the fourth set tie-break sealed the win for Canberra’s finest over a man placed 102 places above him in the world rankings at number 81.
It was on the dot of 3pm when Kyrgios and Becker stepped onto Show Court 3, the heat leaving almost as many spectators in the stands as players and officials on court. Two-and-a-half hours later, it had filled considerably to witness a deserved Kyrgios victory, 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2 7-6(2).
The men are 14 years apart in age; understandably this was their first meeting. While Kyrgios is still only 18 years old, but much has changed in the 12 months since he won the boys’ singles crown here.
Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter was on hand to assess his man, thoughts of next month’s Davis Cup clash in France perhaps high in his mind after a clash that, a second-set slide apart, saw Kyrgios regular outhit his opponent from the back of the court, 71 winners to just 38 from Becker a telling statistic.
The German doesn’t have the greatest of records in the Open with three wins in six outings, but comes with a pedigree that has seen him climb as high as 38 in the rankings in a career that has brought him close on US$3 million in prizemoney.
Not that Kyrgios cared, his relentless going-for-broke paying off with the first set to Kyrgios at 6-3. The only real wobble came deep in the second set; a loose game when serving for the set at 5-4 let Becker in, and the German closed out matters in the tie-break soon after.
The third set passed in a flash, Kyrgios needing just 10 minutes to build up a 3-0 lead and a further 14 minutes to take the set 6-2, each man trying for the instant winner more than engaging in a rally of any length.
Two games down in the fourth set, Kyrgios showed his mettle to break back and then hold for a 3-2 lead as the first cries of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ rang out from the crowd.
Kyrgios smacked three sublime double backhanded winners as Becker served for the set, taking the fourth into a tie-break.
There was no let-up from Kyrgios, his carefree hitting suiting the occasion wonderfully, and he served out the match comfortably on the first of his four match points.
He was pleased with the aggressive approach.
“It's either you've got to step up or you're going to lose that fourth set,” Kyrgios said.
“So I thought I had to step up and, you know, I played a really good tie-break. It was a pretty exciting match. The crowd got me over the line, I thought.”
And compared to his first Grand Slam win in Paris last year?
“I think this time was a lot better,” he said.
“My whole family was there, my friends and the home support.”
Kyrgios was thrilled immediately afterwards, chatting with the crowd, throwing them his towel and even offering them the remainders of his bananas.
It was the first time Kyrgios had smiled outwardly all afternoon, but his performance suggests Melbourne Park will hold many more smiles for him in years to come.
Kyrgios was joined in the second round by compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis, who recovered from a second-set blip to down Dutchman Igor Sijsling 7-6(4) 0-6 7-6(3) 6-2 on Tuesday night, capping a day where the future of Australian tennis shone very brightly indeed.