Nick Kyrgios has advanced to the second round of the Australian Open with a straight-sets victory over 184th-ranked qualifier Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal.
- Nick Kyrgios warmed into the match to claim the win in straight sets in front of a small crowd
- Kyrgios was frustrated by his opponent’s apparent time wasting during the match
- Despite cruising through the second and third sets, Kyrgios summarised his performance as “pretty average”
The Australian battled swirling winds, a determined if outmatched opponent and an unfamiliar atmosphere in his favourite stadium to win 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in a little over two hours at Melbourne Arena.
It will go down as a mere formality, but Kyrgios cut a tetchy figure at times. A strange first set that stretched to 48 minutes hinted at an implosion.
Playing in his first Grand Slam match but no rube, Ferreira Silva pushed Kyrgios’s buttons like a seasoned pro. Twice in the opening minutes he ambled over to the sideline for a towel to wipe away non-existent sweat that probably could have been accommodated by his headband. Kyrgios fumed.
The Australian loves Melbourne Arena, now named for John Cain. It’s a “people’s” court, and on it Kyrgios has become a kind of Happy Gilmore figure of tennis, delighting heaving stands filled with fans who are there for him, not just tennis.
Here, it was not a quarter full and missing the energy Kyrgios can either feed off or rage at.
For those spectators allowed in, the early stages were hard going. After 26 minutes of frankly horrid tennis, the third game had yet to be decided. A lone voice in the stands spoke for the majority: “This is excruciating.”
When Kyrgios broke serve a few minutes later, there was a mass exodus to the toilets and bars. Thankfully, the spectacle improved from there, if not Kyrgios’s mood.
Where Ferreira Silva’s time-wasting seemed to distract Kyrgios in the first half-hour, he was soon unleashing aces in barrages, and a trademark underarm serve too. Theatrically, he did some stalling himself. Errors crept into the qualifier’s game and Kyrgios jimmied open the door.
In theory, Kyrgios’s task was simple. At 25, Ferreira Silva has never beaten a top-50 player before, although Kyrgios only just scrapes into that category at the moment.
Yet all qualifiers in Melbourne have shown steel unrequired in previous iterations of the tournament, enduring a fortnight of quarantine before scraping through three rounds of sudden-death tennis. Even making the trip was a risk proposition with no guarantee of the main draw windfall.
Despite that fortitude, Ferreira Silva could not hang in there. At 2-2 in the second set, he took his own turn at raging at the chair umpire over a line call. Kyrgios bit his lip, put his head down and crunched a beautiful cross-court forehand to claim the break.
Nine aces and 18 winners later, he had the set in 40 minutes, his crunching forehands punctuating carefully constructed points.
There was one more wobble at the beginning of the third set. Kyrgios conceded a break in a love game, muttering away at his support crew: “Where the f*** are they?”
By that point, his troublesome knee was hurting too. The trainer had been called to massage it, but he pulled himself together to break back and play with a swagger that was missing in the first hour.
He also did the hard yards: One exquisite drop shot came at the end of a searching cross-court chase that would have tested his injury.
There is nothing inauthentic about Kyrgios. Before the match, the child who had won the opportunity to preside over the coin toss shaped to give him a high five, but such is the COVID-paranoia the tournament operates under, she flinched and withdrew. Kyrgios took an extra step forward to emphatically slap her hand and make her day.
“Honestly it was pretty average”, Kyrgios said of his performance in a post-match interview. “I’m just happy I got through.”
How much further he goes remains to be seen.