Nick Kyrgios said his thrilling five-set victory against France’s Ugo Humbert in the Australian Open second round was driven by a fear of facing a negative reaction.
The 25-year-old Australian saved two match points in the fourth set on his way to a 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory against the 29th seed in front of a riotous crowd on John Cain Arena.
Kyrgios sank to his knees and later shook his head in disbelief after securing a third-round meeting with third seed Dominic Thiem on Friday.
In his on-court interview Kyrgios admitted to having “dark thoughts” during the match and he was asked to expand in his post-match press conference.
“I felt like there was a lot of expectation on me, not playing for a year and coming back,” said Kyrgios, who only made his competitive comeback last week after 10 months away from the sport as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I wasn’t expecting too much of myself, but of course when I’m match point down second-round exit, I was almost afraid.
“I was afraid to come into this room, you know, go to my Airbnb and just read about it and take it all in, take all the negativity in that I have already taken.
“It’s not easy to come back and try and put it all behind. That’s what I was thinking about. I was just, like, my back’s up against the wall and I just – I don’t know. I don’t know how I got out of it.
“It was insane. I don’t know how I would have reacted to negativity this year.”
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Kyrgios, whose effort has often been questioned in the past, added: “I know that many people don’t think that I have a heart or compete as hard as they want me to compete from time to time but I have been through a lot.
“I didn’t just put my hand in a lucky dip and just appear here.”
He added: “It’s definitely one of my most memorable wins.”
The world No 47 said he felt like “a savvy veteran” as his greater experience proved crucial in the pivotal stages.
“Nothing felt new to me out there in the match,” he said. “I felt like I had seen it all before and been through it.”
During a typically eventful match, Kyrgios smashed a racquet after losing the first set, was given a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and continually complained about the technology for net cords.
Kyrgios implored umpire Marijana Veljovic to turn the let technology off after what he thought were two clean aces were deemed to be a let on both occasions on his way to levelling the match at one set apiece.
Humbert, 22, wasn’t to be unfazed as he maintained his assuredness on serve to win the third set and appeared on the brink of victory when he served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set only for Kyrgios to rouse himself amid a Davis Cup-like atmosphere as he saved match points before forcing a deciding set by winning a tiebreak.
Kyrgios was involved in another row about let calls early in the fifth set, but from break point down he promptly won 11 of the next 12 points to lead 3-1 before he closed out the match on his serve when Humbert sent a backhand long after three hours 39 minutes.
“The stadium definitely didn’t feel half full,” Kyrgios said.
“It felt great, the atmosphere was insane.”
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