Aussie tennis fans were left gutted on Friday night when Nick Kyrgios blew a two-set lead against World No.3 Dominic Thiem to crash out of the Australian Open.
Kyrgios gave a glimpse of the electric atmosphere a fan-free Australian Open will sorely miss as he exited his home slam in a pulsating five-set loss.
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A heaving crowd revelled in Kyrgios' antics - the full gamut of good, bad and ugly - on Friday, well into the final two hours before Victoria's five-day COVID-19 lockdown kicked in at midnight.
Many fans were without face masks as Kyrgios encouraged their raucous behaviour and later pleaded with the chair umpire to control them.
The match reflected Kyrgios' roller-coaster of emotions as he claimed the opening two sets before Thiem fought back to register a stirring 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory.
Despite the result, Kyrgios said he was proud of his effort on return to competitive tennis after taking 13 months out of the game because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I went toe to toe with one of the best players in the world and I left it all out there," Kyrgios said.
"I actually physically felt pretty good. I'm pretty sore now, but he's a hell of a player.
"He's so disciplined. He's so composed. His level doesn't drop.
"It is what it is. There was a couple of points in it and I'm not disappointed at all."
Fans were left gutted though, taking to social media to express their devastation.
My God what a game. Anyone still want to claim Nick Kyrgios doesn’t try and he’s bad for tennis? #AusOpen
— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) February 12, 2021
so sad he lost that match but GOD DAMN those first two sets were just monster performances, Thiem gutted it out but Kyrgios hasn't lost a step
— Spose (@spizzyspose) February 12, 2021
gutted Kyrgios lost. a athlete who resembles a actual real human and not a sports science robot.
— twister (@mattdevwegs) February 12, 2021
What a pulsating match between Thiem & Kyrgios. Gutted to see Kyrgios lose, he’ll be sorely missed. But Thiem showed great mental strength. Djokovic is the favourite but I hope Thiem will win the #AusOpen.
— Q. BONA (@Qhama__B) February 12, 2021
— Danessa Joy (@danessanesses) February 12, 2021
I’ve never been so gutted about a tennis match. Kyrgios is still king 👑 👑👑 #AusOpen
— Brandon Marlow (@SauceMarlow) February 12, 2021
I can’t believe Kyrgios lost this
— Ismael Zambada 🇮🇶 (@Ghirq1) February 12, 2021
Dominic Thiem's Houdini act
Thiem looked all but out of the contest when he was down two sets and two break points in his opening service game of the third set.
"I was already dealing with the loss," Thiem told the Nine Network.
"My first match against Nick here on his favourite court with an amazing crowd, I think there are easier things to do.
"That's for sure one of the tougher challenges we have in our sport as you never know what's coming.
"He's a huge player when he's on fire like today.
"Honestly, I was dealing with the loss already, but somehow I was fighting (to keep) myself in the match and it's the Aussie Open - I know that 'impossible is nothing'."
Kyrgios started with a bang when he broke Thiem's serve in the opening game and revved up the crowd by cupping his hands around his ears, urging them to make more noise.
They responded as the showman mixed a series of tweeners and underarm serves with deft drop shots and thunderous groundstrokes.
But Thiem launched a spirited recovery from the brink during the third set as Kyrgios began to show signs of frustration.
The Australian was penalised a point for venting that frustration as the fourth set slipped from his grasp and had several verbal altercations with the chair umpire.
Early in the fifth set, Kyrgios paused before serving and called out to a section of the crowd: "Can you stop screamin' out please? Thanks."
But Kyrgios later praised the crowd.
"It was an amazing atmosphere and it was almost like the last hurrah with the announcement today of the lockdown," he said.
"The energy out there was special."
US Open champion Thiem, last year's runner-up at Melbourne Park, will next meet 18th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
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