Nick Kyrgios has encountered little trouble in reaching the second round of the Australian Open, with a clinical straight-sets defeat of Lorenzo Sonego on Melbourne Arena.
- Nick Kyrgios did not face a break point in defeating Lorenzo Sonego in three sets, while he fired down 14 aces
- Kyrgios could meet world number one Rafael Nadal in the round of 16
- Alexei Popyrin lost the opening set in a tiebreak, but dropped just three games to win the next two
Kyrgios defeated Italy’s Sonego 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/1) in two hours and 13 minutes to move a step toward what would be a blockbuster clash against Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
The Australian last met Nadal in last year’s thrilling Wimbledon second-round match, which the Spaniard won in four tight sets.
But Kyrgios may still need to get past 16th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov before he can entertain a clash with the world number one.
Earlier on Melbourne Arena, Kyrgios’s compatriot Alexei Popyrin enjoyed safe passage through to the second round after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to retire because of injury.
Although Kyrgios produced a number of unforced errors (28) against Sonego, it was a measured performance from the 23rd seed.
His serve was dominant when it needed to be — he did not give up a single break point — and he fired 14 aces to provide a healthy contribution to the bushfire relief efforts he announced earlier this month.
Day two results (men’s draw)
- Rafael Nadal (ESP, 1) def. Hugo Dellien (BOL) 6-2, 6-3, 6-0
- Daniil Medvedev (RUS, 4) def. Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
- Dominic Thiem (AUT, 5) def. Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3, 7-5, 6-2
- Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP, 9) def. Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-2, 6-2, 7-5
- Gael Monfils (FRA, 10) def. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
- Fabio Fognini (ITA, 12) def. Reilly Opelka (US) 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (10/5)
- Diego Schwartzman (ARG, 14) def. Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
- Stan Wawrinka (SUI, 15) def. Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4
- Karen Khachanov (RUS, 16) def. Mario Vilella Martinez (ESP) 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3
- Andrey Rublev (RUS, 19) def. Chris O’Connell (AUS) 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)
- Ernests Gulbis (LAT) def. Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN, 20) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4
“I was excited to get out here,” Kyrgios said in a courtside interview.
“Obviously it’s been a pretty emotional couple of months for all of us, so I wanted to come out here and put on a good performance. I was really excited.”
The first set saw Kyrgios dig into his bag of tricks, with neat drop shots, sliding forehands and blistering backhand service returns prominent among the highlights.
He was not afraid to approach the net when he had Sonego pinned behind the baseline and at times he force the Italian to chase after the ball, as he looked to play the corners.
The turning point came when Kyrgios secured a double break to leap out to a 5-2 lead and despite being 0-30 down in the following game, he eventually served his way out of trouble to seize the opening set.
There were no histrionics from Kyrgios to speak off early on, nor any berating of his entourage sitting in the stands, while he showed admirable sportsmanship when he clapped clean winners from his opponent.
The emotional side of Kyrgios’s on-court demeanour began to show in the second set, although he was never in danger of violating the probation conditions handed down by the ATP in the wake of his behaviour at the Cincinnati Masters last August.
His muted outbursts did not upset his rhythm during his service games and this was illustrated when he barrelled down three consecutive aces to force a second-set tiebreaker, which he won 7-3.
The third set also came down to a tiebreaker, but Kyrgios dictated terms early to close out the match with minimal fuss.
‘That is a painful one’
The 20-year-old Popyrin was leading 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-1 when Tsonga called for the doctor to treat a back injury, before the 2008 finalist made the decision not to continue in the first-round match.
Day two results (women’s draw)
- Karolina Pliskova (CZE, 2) def. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-1, 7-5
- Simona Halep (ROU, 4) def. Jen Brady (USA) 7-6 (7/5), 6-1
- Elina Svitolina (UKR, 5) def. Katie Boulter 6-4, 7-5
- Belinda Bencic (SUI, 6) def. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3, 7-5
- Kiki Bertens (NED, 9) def. Irina Camelia Begu (ROU) 6-1, 6-4
- Madison Keys (US, 10) def. Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3, 6-1
- Ons Jabeur (TUN) def. Johanna Konta (GBR, 12) 6-4, 6-2
- Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) def. Marketa Vondrousova (CZE, 15) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
- Alison Riske (US, 18) def. Yafan Wang (CHN) 7-6 (7/5), 2-6, 6-3
- Donna Vekic (CRO, 19) def. Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-3, 6-4
- Karolina Muchova (CZE, 20) def. Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (10/7)
“That is a painful one,” Popyrin said.
“I never felt like this after a match. He was my hero as a kid. When he made the final here I was in my living room jumping around like a crazy kid.
“Seeing him retire in this match is just painful.”
The 96th-ranked Popyrin played confidently against Tsonga in the first set despite going down to the 28th seed in a tiebreak.
He struck back to win the next two convincingly, although it was clear Tsonga was in distress prior to requesting medical assistance.
Popyrin’s booming serve was finding it mark, with 12 aces for the match, while he tallied 34 winners off his racquet against Tsonga’s 31.
The win gives Popyrin a strong chance of matching his run last year to the third round, which included a win over French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.
He will meet either French wildcard Hugo Gaston or Spain’s Jaume Munar in the second round, but a potential clash with fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev awaits in the third round.
Australian wildcard Alex Bolt, who made the third round last year alongside Popyrin, came from two sets to one down to win in five against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 7-6 (7-1), 1-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4.
Ajla Tomljanovic’s upset win over Latvian 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova earlier on Tuesday saw her join world number one Ash Barty in the second round of the women’s draw.