Sunday, 21 January 2018 15:06 PM GMT
Australian Open Night 7: Dimitrov wins Kyrgios thriller

Dimitrov bests Kyrgios

In perhaps the biggest match of his life so far, Nick Kyrgios played well. Really well, even. He won six games in each set. He hit 36 aces. Hit 76 winners. Gave his all.

But, unfortunately for him, he faced an opponent who played just a little bit better, particularly at the crucial junctures. An opponent a little further along in their career progression. 

One of the most hotly-anticipated fourth round encounters in recent memory, Kyrgios v Grigor Dimitrov did not disappoint, with the Bulgarian triumphing 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4) in a pulsating contest. 

Having won three tie-breaks in his third round victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, here they were the undoing of Kyrgios. The first got away from him on a double fault, after Dimitrov had excelled on his forehand wing.

The second came after Dimitrov had served for the set, with Kyrgios breaking back at 4-5 down. But again the tie-break escaped his clutches, with Dimitrov drawing a decisive error by somehow sending back a fierce Kyrgios return.

Dimitrov has never lost a match from two sets up, but looked to be fearing the worst when Kyrgios took the third set. The Australian pushed hard to force a decider in the fourth set, but appeared spent when Dimitrov broke for a 5-3 lead after netting an overhead smash.

But a feature of Kyrgios’ year to date has been an increase in desire, in fight, and he rallied again, preventing Dimitrov from serving out the match before forcing another tie-break.

As in the other two, Dimitrov was just slightly more consistent, slightly more accurate, and sealed the victory with a scintillating forehand pass.

The pair shared a sporting embrace at the net post-match, with Kyrgios telling Dimitrov to “believe”. Indeed, after some below-par showings in the opening rounds, the No.3 was able to summon his best on an occasion that demanded it. Next up for the Bulgarian in the quarter-finals is Kyle Edmund, and he may sense that opportunity is knocking.

As for Kyrgios, his Australian summer of tennis has been overwhelmingly positive, yielding a title in Brisbane and fourth round showing here at Melbourne Park, ultimately culminating in a standing ovation from Rod Laver Arena.

"I still feel confident after losing that match," said Kyrgios. "There was only a couple of points in it." In fact, there was just one, with Dimitrov winning 157 to Kyrgios' 156. 

"I just feel like I'm trying to get better," he continued.

"You know, there were periods where I stepped on the court last year where I was just doing it for the sake of doing it. In the offseason I didn't really have a coach but I was working on two things that I thought I needed to work on was my volleys and transitioning and my forehand return.

"I'm trying to get better."

Svitolina hurries through

After the excitement of Kyrgios v Dimitrov, Elina Svitolina kept the drama to a minimum against Czech qualifier Denisa Allertova, winning 6-3, 6-0 in 58 minutes.

The opening exchanges were tight, with the pair trading breaks in the first two games. But after securing a second break of serve for a 3-2 lead, Svitolina pulled away, winning nine of the next 10 games to record a comprehensive victory.

Next up for the Ukrainian is Elise Mertens, who is playing in the Australian Open main draw for the first time. A victory there will see Svitolina reach the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time, but she was keen not to raise expectations.

“I don't want to add any pressure. You know, she [Mertens] deserves to be there,” she said.

“Every player who reach certain stage of the tournament deserve to be there. There is no easy way, no shortcuts in the Grand Slams.

“You know, it's going to be tough. I need to be ready for everything and just go for it, and, you know, then we will see what's the cards have for me.”