Court no. 2 was packed this afternoon at Roland Garros to see the 22-year old mercurial enfant terrible square off against the German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber. Nick Kyrgios is box office material with his game being as explosive as his personality. The ranking curves of either players show contrasting lines. As steady as Kyrgios’ rise to prominence has been on the tour, just as steady has Kohlschreiber’s decline. Kyrgios has entered the top 20 being the no. 19 in the world, his counterpart the no. 43.
The pair had never faced each other before, so history induced mind games were absent. Something Kyrgios sometimes has a knack of creating. Both players were happy to fire away from the offset, meaning long typical weary clay court rallies would be virtually non-existent. In the end Kyrgios struck the flamboyant yet effective figure we’ve come accustomed to, as he overpowered Kohlschreiber to become a straight sets victor: 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3.
Kyrgios has been dealt a rough card as of late with some nagging injuries, notably his hip which forced him to withdraw from the Masters tournament of Rome. Before they came to haunt him he was racking up impressive wins during the hard court stretch this season with a famous nail biting loss to Roger Federer in the semifinals of Miami that comes to mind.
Kohlschreiber’s result have been poor this season. In the same tournament of Miami this year he looked to be on the verge of one of his most famous wins of his career when he bageled Nadal in the first set, before faltering in three sets.
As the two traded blows in the opening games it was clear that long rallies were indeed going to be scarce. Even deuce games were few and far in between. Kyrgios wields arguably one of the most potent serve & first strike combo when he’s on fire. And in the first set Kyrgios was on fire alright. Hammering down serves and spreading the court with inside-in forehand winners, Kohlschreiber was simply overpowered.
His trademark technically sound one-hander bailed him out on several occasions but Kyrgios would edge ahead first, breaking in the sixth game at the first time of asking with an acute angled forehand to draw the forced error from the German. The dangerous frontrunner that Kyrgios is, he loosened up his flexible wrist even more, serving out the set with a barrage of winners. If the serve didn’t do the trick, his forehand surely would: 6-3.
Kohlschreiber was up against it and needed to up his own level to be able to withstand the first killshot from Kyrgios and somehow rally with the swashbuckling figure that was unloading shot after shot on the other side of the net. All Kohlschreiber got out of that tactic was being on the long end of a 13-stroke rally, the longest of the match. Kohlschreiber managed to rack up his own ace count and went for his one-hander a bit more, earning him easier holds of serves.
It wouldn’t be a Kyrgios match if there wasn’t at least a sniff of controversy. As Kyrgios had the first and only break chance of the set in the ninth game, Kohlschreiber brushed it away to get to deuce with a pinpoint accurate serve out wide followed with a brave swinging volley winner. Kyrgios though, didn’t believe the German’s serve hit the line, claiming the mark was missing. Arguing with the umpire, who claimed the mark was not there because it hit the line and conveyed a strong resolve over his decision. For a couple of games the young Australian turned into the enfant terrible tennis fans around the world have come to love and hate at the same time.
But Kyrgios wouldn’t lose focus in the long run. As he boasted an ominous 72% of first serve percentage in that set one could hardly speak of a fair game. Such numbers would calm anyone down. As Kyrgios’ primary weapon was firing on all cylinders any form of opposition would be in serious trouble. With neither player able to force the break they went into a tiebreak. No drama there though. Kyrgios would win the breaker handily with some great variety using the drop shot to great effect.
Heading into the third set, the score-line and the sequence of points would mirror the opening salvo to a T. Again Nick capitalized in the sixth game. A mishit from Kohlschreiber set up a nuclear forehand from Kyrgios the likes which would leave dust clouds on every surface let alone clay. Kohlschreiber could only shrug his shoulders and roll his eyes with every winner that flew by.
Kyrgios clinched victory in the ninth game as Kohlschreiber shot his forehand long. This win was as straightforward as they come. Kyrgios looks to have found his rhythm on clay which essentially means he can play his infamous hard court game on a slower surface. Next up for him will be either Malek Jaziri or Kevin Anderson. Interesting match statistic: Kyrgios hit 40 winners. Half of them were serve bombs.
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