The crowd was in Nick Kyrgios’s hand when he clinched the second set against Dominic Thiem on Friday. An underhanded serve got the tournament’s last live crowd for some days on their feet as they cheered for their countryman’s success. As it turns out, that would be the last time those in attendance would celebrate a victorious set from the 25-year-old who is, depending on who you ask, either the most infuriatingly arrogant player on the tour, or one of the most entertaining.
Thiem, the winner of last year’s US Open, repeated his performance from that final in Flushing Meadows — the first man in 71 years to come back from a two set deficit in that tournament — winning three straight sets to defeat his Australian opponent and move on to the next round.
There were many mistakes that Kyrgios had to deal with through the remaining sets, and they began piling up fast as he held two break points on Thiem’s serve in the opening game of the third set. The final score wound up reading as a 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 Thiem victory.
“If I take one of those break points early in the third set, I think the match is over in an hour and 45 minutes,” said Kyrgios, per ATP. “I could definitely feel he was going away towards the end of the second [set].”
He seemed to have with the crowd throughout the whole experience. Kyrgios was hyping up the crowd in warm-ups, cupped his ear to the crowd when he broke serve in the first game of the match, stretched out his arms in a Gladiator-like way after winning a break point in the second set, and — in what oddly became the standout Kyrgios moment of the night — drank from a soda can while on the bench.
“Tonight, I was a massive underdog,” said Kyrgios. “I left it all out there. I put myself in a position to win. That wasn’t the case against [Ugo] Humbert [in the second round]. My back was against the wall the entire time. I was up two-sets-to-love tonight, and he came back and he won.
“I’m not taking any shame in losing in five sets to the Australian Open finalist and the US Open champion … I’m not probably in the best physical shape I have been in. But I tried to bring what I had and it wasn’t enough. I fell short. I’m all right with that.”
Kyrgios also had another row with the umpire overseeing things, as he was given a hindrance call. Kyrgios was then put in the position to argue that his yelling was no different, or more distracting, than the grunts of other players. The Australian perhaps could have even argued that his yell was not a hindrance because the entire crowd was rallying against Thiem the whole time, and he still ended up coming out on top, something the 25-year-old complimented his opponent on in the post match presser.
“I think Thiem actually drew some energy from everyone kind of against him almost,” said Kyrgios. “He’s played on the biggest stages in the world, so I don’t think he was rattled at all. One thing I noticed about him, maybe [at] two-sets-to-love down, he was always positive. He didn’t show any negative emotion. He knew there was a long way to go in that match.”
Thiem, the runner-up in last year’s Australian Open, will face Grigor Dimitrov in the Round of 16. Even with the full Kyrgios experience happening on the other side of the net through five sets, he was still happy with the product he and his opponent put for the crowd.
“This was a good last match before the lockdown,” Thiem said. “It’s really sad to say.”