Kyrgios Wins, Will Face Nadal To Continue 'Salty' Rivalry
A bloodied, bickering and brave Nick Kyrgios has laid a marker for perhaps the most resilient victory of his career, claiming a stunning third round Australian Open triumph against Karen Khachanov.
The temperamental talent produced some of his best tennis to beat the Russian 16th seed 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (8-6) 6-7 (9-7) 7-6 (10-8) in the longest match of his career -- a four hour and 26 minute classic on Saturday night.
It sets up the most anticipated match of the 2020 Open -- a clash with bitter rival Rafael Nadal.
But this one will go down for the ages, Kyrgios blowing two match points across the third and fourth set and also battling a bloody hand, mini-meltdown and a superb comeback from his opponent to eventually get the job done.
"It was definitely one of the craziest matches I've ever been a part of," he said.
"It was insane. Had a match point in the third, a match point in the fourth. Then 8-7 down, 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. It was crazy."
"It was one of the best wins of my career I think."
Kyrgios started off in electrifying fashion, overcoming an early glute complaint and medical time out to race through the first set.
The second was tighter as Khachanov warmed into the match following his four hour and 34 minute second-round epic against Mikael Ymer.
It stayed on serve before Kyrgios overcame a mini-break in the tiebreak to claim the set.
With a 4-2 advantage to Kyrgios in the third, the match looked done, but, much like in his second round encounter with Gilles Simon, he handed it back with the finish line in sight.
Kyrgios had one match point on the Khachanov serve but he couldn't claim it, with the Russian then stealing the set on his opponent's serve.
In a tight fourth set Kyrgios lost his cool when given a time warning on serve - the Canberran bitterly complaining about a bleeding hand he'd sustained falling over the previous point.
"Are you stupid? Can you not see? Why did I get a time violation, my hand is bleeding," he told umpire Renaud Lichtenstein.
Kyrgios later explained that his hand was squirting blood and he didn't want the ballboy to have to touch his towel.
"Then the umpire just had no idea what was going on apparently. My hand is usually brown. It was covered in blood. Something wrong there," he said.
After Khachanov fended off another match point he went on to claim the set in a a third tiebreak, setting up the decider.
While Kyrgios stayed on the edge, there was no tipping point and the clash stayed on serve until the match tiebreak which Kyrgios won 10-8 before collapsing to the ground.
Kyrgios to meet Nadal in fourth round
On play alone there's enough to captivate.
The Spanish 19-time grand slam winner and all-time great up against the most gifted shotmaker of his generation playing in front of his home crowd.
Nadal is 4-3 in career meetings; Kyrgios 2-1 on hardcourts.
The backstory only adds more spice to the rivalry.
In a podcast last year Kyrgios labelled Nadal "super salty" and accused him of not giving enough credit to players who beat him.
It appeared to fire up the 33-year-old for last year's Wimbledon clash, a match which Nadal won in four sets.
Kyrgios admitted after the second round clash that he had aimed to hit Nadal "square in the chest" when the Spaniard was at the net.
"Why would I apologise? Dude's got how many slams? How much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest," Kyrgios said.
After his epic win over Khachanov, Kyrgios wasn't talking up their apparent enmity -- but he wasn't talking it down either.
"If we don't like each other or whatever, I think there's a layer of respect. He's one of the greatest of all time. I also read that he thinks I'm good for the sport," Kyrgios said.
"There's a layer of respect that we both have for each other. Doesn't necessarily mean we like each other, but ... we're going to go out there and give contrasting styles and personalities."
Equally, Nadal gave just enough to suggest there could be a detente - or could just as easily get heated again.
"I don't know him personally, honestly, to have a clear opinion," he said after his own third-round win earlier on Saturday.
"It's clear, of course, that when he does stuff that in my opinion is not good, I don't like.
"When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour."