It was simultaneously a thrilling and chilling night in Melbourne. First, we witnessed the crowd cheering their favourite with the decibel levels the highest they possibly have been inside a tennis stadium in the past year, not long before Novak Djokovic let out a guttural roar in front of empty stands after his great escape.
Both matches were sensational for different reasons but it would take something extraordinary to better the third-round match between Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios.
Thiem rallied from two sets down to tame flamboyant Kyrgios at the Australian Open Friday in front of a raucous crowd just hours before Melbourne goes into coronavirus lockdown.
Kyrgios produced a virtuoso performance in the first two sets, using every trick in the book, including underarm serves and tweeners, as he fed off the energy at a boisterous John Cain Arena, his favourite court.
But he couldn’t sustain the intensity as US Open champion Thiem, last year’s runner-up, found his groove with some dominant serving to fight back and outlast the 25-year-old 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Watch highlights of the match below:
Here’s what the two players had to say after the match:
Thiem will now play 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the quarter-finals, with the Bulgarian through after Pablo Carreno Busta retired injured in the second set.
“It was my first match against Nick on his favourite court with an amazing crowd, there are easier things to do,” said Thiem.
“That is one of the tougher challenges we have in our sport, you never know what is coming. Nick is a huge player when he is on fire, like today.
“You know, I always prefer playing in front of a crowd, even if they are not for me,” he added.
Austrian Thiem came into the clash after dropping just six games in his previous match, in contrast to Kyrgios who played a draining and emotional five-setter.
Kyrgios said Thiem was the better man on the night.
“He’s a hell of a player, he’s so disciplined, he’s so composed. His level doesn’t drop. It is what it is,” he said, adding that the fans were magnificent.
“Obviously atmospheres like that are special and not many people get to play like that,” he said.
“I embrace it every time I’m out there.”
(With AFP inputs)
Here are some reactions to the match: