Australian Open 2015: Calm experience of Murray dampens Kyrgios fire
Andy Murray beats Nick Kyrgios in straight sets to set up a semi-final clash with Tomas Berdych in Melbourne
In a week of shocks and upsets, of some champions winning but others losing, of vivid yellows, limes and pinks tempered by cool blues, greys and black, the opening men’s quarter-finals pitched one against the other twice over.
In the first, the tall ice-blue figure of Tomas Berdych coolly took out the shocking pink of Rafael Nadal, in a shocking straight sets win, the Czech’s first after 17 straight losses.
In the second, the low-key, charcoal-black, muscular figure of Andy Murray, a three-time finalist in this first Grand Slam of the year, was anything but low-key in showing the optic yellow teen sensation, Nick Kyrgios, the distance he has travelled since he reached the fourth-round for the first time in Melbourne at 19 years of age.
Kyrgios—with a personality as eye-popping as his outfit—was proving that he did not lack confidence and fighting spirit, and no wonder. Already a Wimbledon quarter-finalist, he took out No23 seed Ivo Karlovic in the second round after a five-set marathon in his opener, then defeated Roger Federer’s victor, Andreas Seppi, from two sets down.
But Kyrgios also had another spur: He was playing in front of an adoring home crowd only too aware that he was aiming to be the first Australian to reach the semis here in a decade, when Lleyton Hewitt did the honours.
However, the imposing, super-fit Murray had become one of the favourites for the title here for good reason. Very like the relaxed Berdych who had gone before, Murray had a rejigged team and his new fiance courtside, and looked very impressive in beating the dangerous Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round. Indeed Murray’s form, after a year of adjustments following back surgery, looked back at its best—and that from a man who had not fallen short of Grand Slam quarter-final in over four years.
Kyrgios, though, showed few nerves as he launched into a love hold, but from 30-0 up in the sixth game, he lost five out of six points to give up the break, 2-4.
Still the spirit and self-belief of the younger man shone through as he fought off five deuces and a break point at 2-5, but he could not break Murray, who served out 6-3 in a comfortable half hour.
The second set sizzled as both worked to take control, and the winners outstripped the errors on both sides. Kyrgios boldly came the net time and again, regardless of a few classy cross-court backhand passes from Murray, and won 11 points there for his effort. In the third game, he fended off the only break point of the set along with four deuces, and they duly headed to a tie-break.
There, the advantage went to and fro, now 2-0 to Murray, now 3-2 to Kyrgios after an exquisite drop shot, then 4-3 to the teenager as he roared his delight at a forehand winner. But Murray seized the initiative, twice putting up lob winners, to take the set, 7-6 (5), and for the first time allowed himself a joyous fist-pump.
Kyrgios opened the third set in explosive form, holding serve to love at 2-2 and then attacking the net to make two winners, 0-30. But a composed Murray made four big serves to hold and promptly broke Kyrgios when the teenager netted a backhand, double faulted, and succumbed on the third break point.
Yet with the Aussie body starting to suffer, the Kyrgios spirit was not ready to give up, and he broke back. But it was to be a brief respite as Murray went in for the kill, broke and served out the match, 6-3.
It has been a wonderful tournament for Kyrgios, one that has proven both his explosive talent but also his fight, grit and passion. He admitted that he had learned much from his quarter-final loss—and that will be a building block that can take him to greater heights than his projected 35 ranking next week: “Yeah, it was a really good experience.
“That was my first Aussie Open Grand Slam match playing on Rod Laver, so that was really cool. But he was way too good for me tonight. There are some things I can take from that match and get better.
“I was hurting out there, so physicality is a big [improvement I can make]. My mentality, I thought had a couple dips out there. I need to stay consistent.
“But it’s just been a rollercoaster. Not getting much sleep obviously. It’s been a lot of fun, but at the same it’s been pretty stressful. But I’ve enjoyed it. I’m just happy that I got as far as I did.”
So Murray reaches his fifth Australian semi-final and will face the man now working with Dani Vallverdu, the Briton’s own colleague until the end of last year. Not that Murray would be drawn on that: “I don’t really want to talk about what Dani’s strengths and weaknesses are. I’m not playing against him. I don’t think in loads of sports people talk about other players’ coaches and managers.”
About Berdych, though, he was willing to speak, and he will hope to find the right tactical combination to take on a man who has beaten him in their last two meetings: “He’s a big guy. He strikes the ball very well, he serves well. He’s fairly calm on the court. I think he manages emotions fairly well. And, yeah, he’s obviously played extremely well this tournament so far. He’s had some good wins and played well in Doha. He’ll be coming into the match with confidence.”
Two more men, both former champions, both fathers, both favouring cool blues rather than in-your-face dayglo, will try their chances against young, ambitious competition tomorrow: Novak Djokovic against Milos Raonic; Stan Wawrinka against Kei Nishikori.
Will old-school experience win its way into the semis, or will fresh blood have its day? The tennis will sparkle whatever they wear.