Kyrgios to square off with childhood hero

Nick Kyrgios must stare down his childhood idol in a third-round blockbuster on Rod Laver Arena to keep his Australian Open dream alive.

Having sauntered into the last 32 without dropping a set, Kyrgios faces his first major test of the Open on Friday night against flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

A decade ago, when Tsonga was charging towards the 2008 final against Novak Djokovic, Kyrgios was a starry-eyed youngster in awe as he stalked the Ali-lookalike around Melbourne Park for autographs.

"I was 12. I went to all his practice sessions with a new ball. He signed it every day," Kyrgios recalled.

"I don't know if he remembers. I didn't miss one of his practice sessions.

Kyrgios is preparing to take on his childhood hero. Pic: Getty

"Obviously, a guy I looked up to growing up. I've seen him play a lot. I know what he's going to bring. He knows what I'm going to bring. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Five years later, Kyrgios won the Australian Open junior crown, thwarting his great mate Thanasi Kokkinakis in the boys' final in his first appearance on Rod Laver Arena.

Now the maturing 22-year-old Canberran is the same age as when Tsonga made the men's final at the season-opening showpiece and is craving another crack on Melbourne Park's centre court.

It seems Kyrgios might have finally outgrown Hisense Arena, the people's court that has long been his preferred option.

Kyrgios's 7-5 6-4 7-6 (7-2) second-round win over Viktor Troicki on Wednesday night was plagued with disruptions.

A heckler was ejected, a helicopter hovered above for three games and problems with the PA system had the umpire's microphone shut down as well as all audio on the court including music.

With Hisense lacking the usual upbeat vibe that Kyrgios thrived on, the 17th seed said he felt like he was playing at a different tournament.

"I felt like the atmosphere completely changed," Kyrgios said.

"When you've got the microphones working, the music and stuff kind of puts you in a rhythm every game and I kind of lost my rhythm a little bit."

The young hot-head admitted in the past he might have let the distractions drive him to defeat, like last year in his a shocking collapse from two sets up against Andreas Seppi.

Now Kyrgios - who spent a questionable one hour and 50 minutes on court in searing heat on Thursday to post a doubles win with Matt Reid - is relishing his return to RLA's 14,820-seater.

"I think I'm ready for it," he said.

"I played a lot of matches on Rod Laver."

Kyrgios lost a tight three-setter to Tsonga, the Open's 15th seed, in their only previous meeting last year in Marseille.

Friday's victor will play Bulgarian third seed Grigor Dimitrov or rising Russian Andrey Rublev for a quarter-final berth.

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