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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, January 25, 2020

 
Nick Kyrgios

A dynamic Nick Kyrgios showed true grit edging Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-7(7), 7-6(8),to reach the Australian Open fourth round for the third time.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

The fight was more than four hours old and the finish line loomed as clearly as the baseline.

A tough-minded Nick Kyrgios crossed it with a committed closing kick setting up an Australian Open blockbuster against nemesis Rafael Nadal.

More: Monfils Still Believes He Can Win Slam

Driven to the brink, a dynamic Kyrgios showed guts and grit edging Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 
6-7(7)7-6(8),to reach the Australian Open fourth round for the third time.

The 24-year-old Aussie took chanting fans inside a packed Melbourne Arena on a four hour, 26-minute thrill ride—and showed courage facing his own fears after failing to convert a match point in both the third and fourth-set tie breakers—eventually prevailing in the longest match of his career.

"It was crazy," Kyrgios said. "I don't think the emotions have died down at all. I think I'm still running on adrenaline.

"Yeah, that was definitely one of the craziest matches I've ever been a part of. It was insane. Had a matchpoint 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. Then, yeah, it was crazy."

When Khachanov's final shot sailed wide, an inspired Kyrgios collapsed to the court soaking up the elation of an epic. 




"That's definitely one of the best wins of my career, I think," Kyrgios told Jim Courier in his on-court interview. "This is just epic, man. I don't even know what's going on. Honestly, my legs feel about 40 kilos each."

Khachanov was unwavering, Kyrgios was undaunted and they pushed each other all over the court collaborating on a classic.




Nearly each time Kyrgios felt the vise grip of pressure tightening in the match tie break, he answered with bold brilliance. Kyrgios cracked 97 winners, rocketed 33 aces and denied three of four break points.

It was a gutsy effort from Khachanov, who battled into a fifth-set match tie breaker for the second straight match. Khachanov out-dueled Sweden's Mikael Ymer, 10-8 in the fifth-set tie breaker of their wild four hour, 34-minute marathon in round two.



Playing catch-up against Kyrgios much of the night, Khachanov kept pushing and his effort inspired the Aussie to dig deeper.

"He's not given enough credit," Kyrgios said of Khachanov. "He played like four hours something in his previous match. To come back out and put on a performance like that, I thought the level at the end was crazy. Yeah, I mean, the least I could do was go out there and give everything I had."

Tennis Express


The 6'6" Russian stared down a second match-point in the fourth-set breaker and the frenzied pro-Kyrgios crowd. Winning a backhand battle, Khachanov forced a final set and Kyrgios was forced to face his own vulnerabilities.

Tension escalated into the fifth-set tie breaker. Kyrgios snapped Khachanov's streak of 19 straight points on serve by seizing a 3-0 lead only to see the Russian roll through four straight points.

Neither man could gain separation.  Khachanov edged ahead at 8-7. The ability to shorten his backswing on the backhand is a Kyrgios asset and the Aussie used it banging a backhand winner down the line then drawing a netted backhand for 9-8.




A full one hour, 54 minutes after his prior match point, Kyrgios gained a third and ended it tumbling to the court in joy and relief on Khachanov's final error.

Next up, Kyrgios moves to the main stage of Rod Laver Arena for a Monday rematch with nemesis Nadal, who has won four of their seven meetings. 

"I'm super excited honestly," Kyrgios said of facing the world No. 1. "Playing one of the greatest tennis players on center court at your own slam, it's pretty damn cool. Yeah, I've got a lot of time between now and then.

"Obviously it's going to be another physical battle. Nothing comes easy with him. He had a relatively routine match today, so he's going to be feeling good. I'm looking forward to it. That's why you play, I guess."

 

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