Shock Kyrgios change no one saw coming
ONE year ago, Nick Kyrgios imploded in spectacular fashion to crash out of the Australian Open in a five set debacle.
Up two sets to love against Italian Andreas Seppi, the Aussie lost the plot in a horror show that sparked accusations of tanking. A particularly dismal fourth set - which Seppi won 6-1 in a canter - was the ugliest of the match as Kyrgios showed no interest in fighting to keep his grand slam campaign alive.
Fast forward 12 months and the Kyrgios we saw defeat Viktor Troicki in straight sets had us rubbing our eyes to make sure we weren't hallucinating. Goodbye wild child, hello iceman.
What Kyrgios described as a "circus" of a match was marred by more distractions than many players will cop in a year. A rogue "fan" interrupted the second set when he stood up and started yelling right behind the 22-year-old as he was about to serve, a helicopter parked itself above Hisense Arena and made it impossible for players to hear and technical difficulties caused a ruckus.
The PA system wasn't working and the umpire's microphone had a shocker, prompting wild cheers and laughter from the crowd at the beginning of the third set.
"The guy in the crowd was crazy. I didn't really know what was going on," Kyrgios said. "The helicopter, that's when I was thinking, 'Of course it's at my match. It's just hovering there. Of course, it is.'
"That actually made it tough. It was tough to return. Hearing the ball actually come off the racquet is a pretty big thing. I missed four returns. I'm just going to blame it on the helicopter.
"There were a lot of things going on there today."
Twelve months ago, if Kyrgios had suffered through the same barely-believable set of events, he would have folded. No doubt about it.
But this isn't the same Nick Kyrgios from January 2017. From what we saw on Wednesday night, this is Nick Kyrgios 2.0
Yes, he swore a couple of times and yes, he complained to the umpire once or twice. But given the nature of what he had to deal with, his reactions were remarkably calm. Again, at last year's Australian Open, there's no way he could have reined his emotions in the way he did last night.
Barring the occasional signs of annoyance, Kyrgios was largely subdued on court. His facial expression rarely changed from neutral, even when interrupted by the idiot in the stands in the second set.
"It's a quiet performance from an emotional standpoint," American great Jim Courier said in commentary for Channel Seven.
The focal point of Kyrgios's new-found maturity was in the third set. He took a 5-3 lead but Troicki fought back, winning the next three games to go up 6-5. He wouldn't collapse again, would he?
No, he wouldn't. He was far from his best at the end of the third but he did enough to keep his cool and seal the match.
Kyrgios acknowledged what a difference a year makes in his post-match press conference,
"I think last year, the year before, I probably would have been still out on the court right now, could be losing that match," Kyrgios said.
"I feel like my game helped me in the tiebreaker. I played a pretty good level in the tiebreak."
Kyrgios has hyped up Hisense Arena as his favourite court to play on at Melbourne Park, but recent experiences may have tainted his view on it. The latest abnormalities came after he told hecklers to "shut the f*** up" in his opening match of the tournament.
He will likely trade Hisense for Rod Laver Arena in his third round match-up against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Asked if he'd "outgrown" his favourite stage, the World No. 17 said he was prepared to make the step up to centre court.
"Yeah, I think I'm ready for it. I've played a lot of matches on Rod Laver, I've hit on it a lot of times. I'm ready for it," he said.
And who can argue? Based on Wednesday's performance, Kyrgios really is ready for anything.