Nick Kyrgios gets past Medvedev in Rome Open
When somebody is about to face up to Nick Kyrgios on the court, nobody quite knows what to expect. Daniil Medvedev, who was arguably sports betting favourite here, was certainly caught off guard from the first moment, as Kyrgios delivered an underhand serve to win the first point.
Kyrgios delivered a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win to gain his first triumph on clay this year, in a match where he pulled out all the stops. His game was well designed to woo the crowd, and he had them applauding with several drop shots and slices as well as a cheeky hit through the legs.
All of this brought out some frustration in Medvedev, who smashed his racket on the ground in frustration at one point.
The Australian has always been considered one of the most talented players on the circuit in terms of the shots he has at his disposal, but his temperament has often been called into question. In the Italian capital, he was smiling constantly and seems to have found the kind of inner mental strength that may allow him to progress to new heights in bigger tournaments.
Kyrgios spoke after the match of how he had a clear intention throughout to unsettle Medvedev “because I knew he loves rhythm”.
Admitting he feels “it’s very important to go out there and put on a bit of a show”, he certainly kept true to his word. Medvedev levelled the match at one set each after getting lower back treatment, but Kyrgios responded with an impressive range of wide shots that kept pushing his opponent around the court, and it gave the momentum to the Australian.
He ended up with 15 aces, but four of these came in the last game when he served out the match to love, with Medvedev barely able to register a response.
Elsewhere in Rome, there was a big disappointment for Serena Williams, who had to bow out of the Italian Open due to a knee injury that prevented her from playing against her older sister Venus in round two.
This injury means this is the third tournament in a row she has pulled out early, and she will now have to allay fears that she will not be ready for the French Open. Having failed to make the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January, her chances of equalling Margaret Court’s title record of 25 Grand Slam wins by the end of 2019 seem to be fading.
There were some upsets in the early rounds. Alexander Zverev was stunned once again with a 7-5, 7-5 loss against Roman wildcard Matteo Berrettini, while João Sousa got the better of Frances Tiafoe in a determined 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), saving four match points along the way.
Words: Josh Dixon