Daniil Medvedev sees off Nick Kyrgios and takes swipe at ‘low IQ’ Melbourne crowd

Russian tournament favourite complains over ‘siuuu’ shouts during play

 

On Tuesday evening, Nick Kyrgios was leaning into the stands taking swigs of a spectator’s beer. Two days later there was none of the showboating he so relishes at John Cain Arena. “Kyrgios Court”, as he calls it, is not the same as centre court, and a qualifier is not the same as a world number two.

Against Daniil Medvedev there were none of the cheeky antics displayed as he defeated Britain’s Liam Broady in the first round. Indeed, any hint of that signature jaunty smile during his more masterful moments – and there were a few during this belter of a second-round battle – vanished during those that were left wanting.

By the end of the two hours and 58 minutes, Medvedev had simply produced more of the former and fewer of the latter. He is, after all, the reigning US Open champion and the tournament favourite. Pre-match, his Australian opponent described him as “probably the best player in the world at the moment”. Which, with the benefit of hindsight, is another way of saying Kyrgios is a pretty good player too.

This 7-6 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 contest was one of fine margins between two players separated in age by only 18 months. Both boast big serves and a brilliantly varied technical repertoire. Only one has a big personality. And so the home crowd, sold out at 50 per cent capacity, felt every emotion of the man they had come to see, who both celebrated and berated his supporters depending whether he was on the ascension or self-imploding.

Medvedev, conversely, was a picture of unyielding calm, of almost machine-like consistency. In what gear he was operating we may never be sure.

“I think no matter what the score is or how much pressure he’s under, he never kind of gets flustered,” Kyrgios said. “He just has so much belief in his game. I think he led the tour in wins last year. He’s just so confident right now. To be honest, I threw everything I could at him.”

As it turned out, Medvedev simply saved his verbals for the end, when he complained to everyone who would listen that the now-infamous “siuuu” calls which have overtaken Melbourne Park and often came between his serves were disrespectful. “I guess some people just have a low IQ,” he told Eurosport, shortly after writing “siuuuu” on a broadcast camera lens above his signature.

Like other players in the opening days of competition, he thought he had been booed. “[Remaining calm and focused] is the only choice when you get booed between first and second serve. You have to stay calm and win the match,” he told Jim Courier in his on-court interview.

That prompted an avalanche of either boos or siuus, which drowned out Courier’s next question. “Sorry, I can’t hear you. Show some respect for Jim Courier. Let him speak please,” Medvedev added. “If you respect somebody, at least respect Jim Courier.” Cheers followed. The US great was quick on the uptake. “I think they are saying ‘siuuu’ which is a soccer, football, thing . . . I don’t think they are booing you.”

Kyrgios felt it was the chair umpire’s job “to control the crowd and monitor it” but said the atmosphere was “awesome”.

“You’ve got, like, you know, the most entertaining player playing in his home Slam on Rod Laver – you’d expect the crowd to be like that,” he said of himself. “I can understand it’s a gentleman’s game, but it’s about time that people embraced some sort of different energy in this sport, otherwise it will die out.”

On the court, the respect between Kyrgios and Medvedev was evident. That was clear in the way Kyrgios only feigned a tweener in the very first game, rather than actually going through with it. He failed to convert two break points in the second, was broken in the third, lost the fourth almost to love and won the fifth with an underarm serve.

At times Kyrgios hypnotised the Russian with deliberately slow groundstrokes, forcing him to make the first move and then quickening the pace and ferocity in an instant. He toyed with his opponent’s serve, sending down a top-spin forehand, a sliced backhand and then a delicate volley. Medvedev, being Medvedev, responded with two aces (he served 31 all up).

When Kyrgios broke back to level the score at 4-4 it seemed as if something magical might happen. When he lost the tie-break 7-1 a meltdown felt imminent. A spectator squawked for him to “serve underarm” and he gave them an expletive-ridden piece of his mind. The crowd can be inconvenient sometimes.

Medvedev again rose to the occasion in the second set. Up 4-3, he drew Kyrgios in and then spat him back out, sent him scurrying in vain to the baseline for one of the less aesthetically pleasing tweener attempts on his resume – a genuine one this time – before digging his own hole to climb out of. Three deuces later he did, and set about a victory dance, his racket and towel flailing up and down with his arms. The crowd once again had permission to engage.

Two games later the inner monologue must have been even louder as he shot an anguished look to the heavens for some assistance to save him from two set points. When Medvedev converted the second he slumped to the changeover, muttering “I can’t serve any bigger” and using his arms to motion Medvedev’s relentless returns.

And it was true – Medvedev kept hitting them back. The admirable restraint also remained throughout the hoo-ha up the other end. The gesticulations and code violations, whooping and cursing. Sometimes Kyrgios was in a rivalry with himself. Sometimes it was with the serve clock.

Nevertheless, the third set was his, sealed with a drop shot. But Medvedev would not be beaten. In the fourth stanza he earned the crucial break to go up 4-2. When he made it 5-2 to love Kyrgios smashed his racket, pulled out a new one and then lost his final service game via two unforced errors. Medvedev flicked his hand like a rapper and swaggered, cool as a cucumber, over to where Courier was waiting for that interview.

“You have tough opponents like Nick here,” Medvedev said. “That is why we love tennis. Any match, anything can happen. I just want to play my best and try to run good, to hit good shots, hit some winners and hopefully this can be enough to do something big.”

He will next face Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands, with likely more scalps to come. But if this is not the match of the tournament by the end of next week, it will certainly come close. – Guardian

Men’s second-round results

(32) Alex De Minaur (Aus) bt Kamil Majchrzak (Pol) 6-4 6-4 6-2, (5) Andrey Rublev (Rus) bt Ricardas Berankis (Lit) 6-4 6-2 6-0, Christopher O’Connell (Aus) bt (13) Diego Sebastian Schwartzman (Arg) 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 6-4, (9) Felix Auger-Aliassime (Can) bt Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Esp) 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4), Pablo Andujar (Esp) bt Alex Molcan (Svk) 6-4 7-6 (8-6) 0-6 6-1, (2) Daniil Medvedev (Rus) bt Nick Kyrgios (Aus) 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 4-6 6-2, (27) Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Norbert Gombos (Svk) 6-2 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8-6), (15) Roberto Bautista Agut (Esp) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger) 6-1 6-0 6-3, Botic Van de Zandschulp (Ned) bt Richard Gasquet (Fra) 4-6 6-0 4-0 ret, (20) Taylor Harry Fritz (USA) bt Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-5), (11) Jannik Sinner (Ita) bt Steve Johnson (USA) 6-2 6-4 6-3, (24) Daniel Evans (Brit) bt Arthur Rinderknech (Fra) w/o, Maxime Cressy (USA) bt Tomas Machac (Cze) 6-1 3-6 6-1 7-6 (7-5), (4) Stefanos Tsitsipas (Gre) bt Sebastian Baez (Arg) 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4, Benoit Paire (Fra) bt (26) Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) 6-4 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2), Taro Daniel (Jpn) bt Andy Murray (Brit) 6-4 6-4 6-4 .

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