Kyrgios had to go the distance against 20-year-old Brandon Nakashima of the USA – something he probably would have preferred to prevent, given the shoulder pain that required a medical time-out in the second set.
It was the ice man against the maverick – the unemotional Nakashima seemed to be taking control when he levelled the score at two sets apiece. But Kyrgios lifted brilliantly in the decider to close out his 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory with a gorgeous serve and volley.
“I started off pretty flat,” Kyrgios admitted. “Well, maybe not flat – but I just felt like I wasn’t able to find the court.
“I woke up after Tsitsipas and had some shoulder pain. I’ve played so much tennis in the last month and a half, so I think that’s normal. It’s just something I manage. Mentally, I feel like I just deal with these things a lot better now. Obviously, I had to take painkillers.”
At the end of the fourth set, Kyrgios’ first-serve speed dropped from his usual levels of around 130mph to somewhere in the 70s. He was broken easily, throwing away the final point with a wild forehand error.
But Kyrgios clarified his thinking during his post-match press conference. “[It was a] complete rope-a-dope tactic. I just threw away that service game. I knew he was in a rhythm. He was starting to get on top of me. I kind of just wanted to throw him off a little bit. It worked.”