Kyrgios ‘locked in’ after toughing it out against Stepanek
When Stepanek saved two match points to win the third set tiebreak against Nick Kyrgios, it looked like the match might slip from the Australian’s grasp.
Kyrgios was visibly frustrated after serving for the match at 5-4 in the third, and then seeing two match points pass him by in the tiebreak.
Veteran Stepanek took Andy Murray to five sets in the first round at Roland Garros last month, and the 37-year-old wildcard, who turned professional the year after Kyrgios was born, was bidding to become the oldest player to win a Grand Slam match since Jimmy Connors at the 1992 US Open.
However, Kyrgios responded immediately, serving four aces to hold his first service game in the fourth set before breaking the Czech twice to streak to a 5-0 lead. Although Stepanek managed to avoid a final set bagel, it was an impressive finish from Kyrgios, who served 25 aces to wrap up the match in two hours and 26 minutes.
“I think that’s where I’ve improved a lot, matured,” said Kyrgios. “To steady the ship like that and respond in the fourth set is pretty good.”
While Kyrgios described the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist as a “nightmare” first round draw, he believes it has its benefits. In contrast to last year, when he played two clay-court specialists, Diego Schwartzman and Juan Monaco in the first two rounds at SW19, he believes victory against Stepanek has already got him switched on to grass court tennis.
“Last year I played two South Americans,” said Kyrgios, who lost his first-round match against Milos Raonic at the Aegon Championships. “There were a lot of rallies. Today I felt it was really good grass court tennis. If I happen to go deep in the tournament, I feel like I’m locked in already and feel like I have a really tough match under the belt.”
No.15 seed Kyrgios will face another tricky second round match in Dustin Brown, who famously upset Rafael Nadal in the second round last year. The German, who won the Aegon Manchester Trophy three weeks ago, arrived at SW19 with 10 grass court matches under his belt.
“I think he just waits for this time of the year,” Kyrgios said of his second round opponent. “When you’re playing a guy like Dustin, you hope it’s not a day when he’s feeling it, he can’t miss, he’s enjoying it. When he’s playing like that, we all know what he’s capable of.”
It promises to be a popular encounter, with both players known for their flair. “He’s a great player,” said Kyrgios, who played with Brown for the victorious Singapore Slammers at the 2015 International Premier Tennis League. “He’s exciting. I’m ready to have fun out there with him.”
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