Kyrgios Ready For More After Sonego Win In Melbourne
Bolt, Popyrin, Polmans and Thompson other Aussie winners on day two
Cheered on by a vocal home crowd, Nick Kyrgios rode the crest of a wave on Tuesday to be among five Australians who reached the second round at Melbourne Park.
Kyrgios was entertaining and played with great focus on Melbourne Arena to overcome fellow 24-year-old Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 6-2, 7-6(3), 7-6(1) in two hours and 13 minutes. The victory maintained his record of always reaching the Australian Open second round in seven appearances. He’ll next play France’s Gilles Simon, a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 winner over Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
Kyrgios, the No. 23 seed, who could potentially face Karen Khachanov and 2009 champion Rafael Nadal in the third and fourth rounds respectively, raised his game in the key moments against Sonego, winning 91 per cent of his first-service points and hitting 37 winners. Having pledged $200 per ace he hits to aid bushfire relief, Kyrgios’ 14 aces against Sonego add $2,800 to the fund.
“I was really excited to get out here,” Kyrgios told former World No. 1 John McEnroe in a post-match interview. “I wanted to put on a good performance. I knew it was going to be tough, because I’d played him once before [at 2019 Cincinnati]. This is one of my favourite courts in the world and I feel super comfortable here. I had great support from fans and I’m ready to go again. The ATP Cup was great preparation, I feel good, but I’m not looking forward in the draw.”
Kyrgios won five games in a row from 1-2 in the first set on Melbourne Arena, and recovered from 0/30 to clinch the 32-minute opener. After a brief floodlight power failure at 3-4 in the second set Kyrgios got Sonego on the run in the tie-break and clinched a commanding lead with a drop shot. Kyrgios dug himself out of a 0/30 hole at 2-2 in the third set, which ended with Sonego’s error count costing him in the tie-break.
Elsewhere, Alex Bolt hit 55 winners and recovered from 1-3 down in the deciding set to beat Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6(1), 1-6, 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-4 in three hours and 24 minutes. He will now look to match his 2019 third round run with victory over fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Alexei Popyrin advanced to the second round in Melbourne after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to retire during their first-round encounter. The 20-year-old Australian, who will face Spain's Jaume Munar in the second round, was leading his childhood idol and 2008 runner-up 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-1. Munar worked his way past French wild card Hugo Gaston 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, 6-3.
Afterwards, Tsonga explained, “I have a back problem. It's annoying, annoying me when I play. It's difficult for me to deal with it for the moment. It's new. I will go home and [consult] my doctors [on] what I have to do exactly.”
Growing up, Popyrin had closely followed Tsonga’s career. “It was his flair,” said Popyrin, when asked what particularly stood out in the Frenchman’s game. “As a kid, everybody loves flair. It was his forehand, his serve, the way he acted on court. He was an entertainer. He still is an entertainer. Just how he played was something that I really loved. Seeing that run he made in the Aussie Open finals was something else. When he made it to the finals, I was jumping around my living room like a crazy kid.”
Wild card Marc Polmans could not convert three match points in the fourth set tie-break – at 6/4 and 7/6 — but did well to keep his composure in a 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(8), 6-4 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in four hours and 17 minutes. He now faces Serbian No. 24 seed Dusan Lajovic. Jordan Thompson beat another Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 for a second-round meeting against Italian No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini.
Another Australian, James Duckworth, fought hard but ultimately lost to Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4 in three hours and 56 minutes. Bedene hit 28 aces among 72 winners, while Duckworth failed to convert any of his six break point opportunities and committed 71 unforced errors. Bedene now faces Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis.
Elsewhere, Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner got the better of Australia’s Max Purcell 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-4 and in-form Russian Andrey Rublev, already a winner of two ATP Tour titles already in Doha and Adelaide, knocked out Christopher O'Connell 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) to improve to 9-0 in 2020.