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Nick Kyrgios Wins Epic Clash With Khachanov • Australian Open Tennis • Plays Nadal Next

By Ricky Dimon

Is there a better love story in tennis than Nick Kyrgios and Melbourne Arena.

Kyrgios got what he wanted: a third consecutive match on his favorite court. And he gave the fans what they wanted: an epic, five-set, hair-raising victory.

The Australian outlasted Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-7(7), 7-6(8) after four hours and 26 minutes on Saturday night. He fired 33 aces among his 97 winners while committing only four double-faults and 52 unforced errors. Despite Kyrgios’ plus-45 ration, Khachanov delivered a similar inspired performance that included 21 aces, 75 winners, and 44 errors.

It was a second consecutive five-setter for Khachanov, who survived Mikael Ymer by the same 10-8 in a fifth-set tiebreaker margin during second-round action. The 17th-ranked Russian almost bowed out much earlier against Kyrgios, but he saved match points in both the third and fourth sets to force a decider. Khachanov came within two points of victory at 8-7 in the final ‘breaker, but Kyrgios leveled up at 8-8 with a backhand winner and then clinched it thanks to a pair of errors by Khachanov.

“It was crazy,” Kyrgios assured. “That was definitely one of the craziest matches I’ve ever been a part of. It was insane. (I) had a match point in the third, a match point in the fourth. Then 8-7 down (in the tiebreaker), I had all the thoughts. I thought I was going to lose. I was thinking about everything. I was thinking about the media if I lost…. Everything. Then, yeah, it was crazy.”

Another crazy scene should be in store for Monday, but this time Kyrgios won’t be playing in Melbourne. No, the main court at Melbourne Park is the only one suitable to host the spectacle that will be Kyrgios vs. Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.

One of the most bad-blooded rivalries in tennis will be renewed when Nadal and Kyrgios square off for the eighth time in their careers. Nadal leads the head-to-head series 4-3, with Kyrgios having won two of their three hard-court meetings. They have split a pair of Grand Slam contests, both at Wimbledon; Kyrgios scored a 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3 upset in 2014 and Nadal got the job done 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) this past summer.

“Physically I think I’ll be fine,” Kyrgios commented. “I have a whole day off tomorrow. Get some rest after this, do all the right things.

“I’m super excited honestly. Playing one of the greatest tennis players on center court at your own slam, it’s pretty damn cool. Obviously it’s going to be another physical battle. Nothing comes easy with him…. I’m looking forward to it.”

So is everyone.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.


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