Australian Open 2021: Dominic Thiem battles Nick Kyrgios and the vociferous Melbourne crowd to reach last 16

It was not only the points which Kyrgios won but also the errors and faults by Thiem which were cheered by the crowd. Umpire Dumusois had to shout “please” to the crowd almost once every game and ensure that he had things in control.

Rajdeep Puri February 12, 2021 20:34:27 IST
Australian Open 2021: Dominic Thiem battles Nick Kyrgios and the vociferous Melbourne crowd to reach last 16

Austria's Dominic Thiem celebrates after winning his third-round match against Australia's Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open 2021. AP

Loud, raucous, and vociferous. The Melbourne crowd is just as tough an opponent as the top players in the world are. And when Nick Kyrgios takes the court on Melbourne Arena aka the John Cain Arena, the fans make sure their voice is very well heard. Tonight, Dominic Thiem didn't just battle Kyrgios, he battled almost each and every fan present in the stadium.

As the fans present in Melbourne Park left the arena to go back into lockdown, Nick Kyrgios bowed out along with them, after an intense three-and-a-half-hour battle with world No 3 Dominic Thiem.

It was just five hours left till lockdown when they took the court and boy, did they deliver. They gave the fans something to remember for a long time and allowed all of them to soak in the atmosphere one last time

Right from the time the players entered the court till the very last point, the atmosphere was unreal. From the very first game, Kyrgios got involved with the crowd, riling them up and asking them to scream louder. The louder the crowd got, the better Kyrgios seemed to play.

The umpire tried to control the crowd on a number of occasions but to no avail. He had no choice but to wait out until the noise died down before each point was played. With each winner hit by Kyrgios, the crowd went crazy and hammered the empty seats and banners in front of them.

It was not only the points which Kyrgios won but also the errors and faults by Thiem which were cheered by the crowd. Umpire Dumusois had to shout “please” to the crowd almost once every game and ensure that he had things in control.

Thiem seemed a bit rattled by the atmosphere in the first two sets as he did not seem to be in his element. His first serve was missing, he was hitting plenty of unforced errors, and he did not have an answer to what Kyrgios threw at him. His first-serve percentage in the first set was just 46% compared to Kyrgios’ 77%. However, credit to Kyrgios as well, who was untouchable in the first two sets. His serve, forehand, backhand, net-game — all were on fire. He continued from where he left off against Ugo Humbert just a couple of days ago.

The crowd who was Kyrgios' best friend throughout the match also turned out to be his worst enemy. In the third set, when he was up a breakpoint, he was perturbed by a fan in the crowd who shouted during the point.

Despite riling up the crowd for the first hour-and-a-half, the enigmatic Australian then had a go at the umpire for not being able to control the crowd. He made his frustration clear and hurled an abuse, which led to him getting a warning.

From then, Thiem seemed to have flicked a switch as he turned the tide in his favour. He didn't do much wrong after breaking Kyrgios' serve in the third set. The noise did not seem to bother him one bit as he went about his business with aplomb and showed the world why he is ranked No 3 in the world.

He was not rattled with the crowd’s reactions to his errors. Kyrgios, on the other hand, lost his focus after getting broken on the third and his frustration was showing in his game. He began to make more errors and he was not able to dictate the game, much like he did in the first two sets.

Thiem broke the Australian’s serve once each in the fourth and fifth set and finally won the encounter with an exquisite backhand winner down the line. He went on to acknowledge the crowd in his post-match interview.

“I always prefer playing in front of a crowd, even if they are not for me, obviously they are for the local hero, there is nothing wrong with that, so I had to accept it, and I still prefer that way more than to play in front of an empty stadium,” said Thiem.

The Austrian will take on Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round on Sunday. Dimitrov won his third-round encounter today after his opponent Pablo Carreno-Busta retired due to injury after just 7 games, with the Bulgarian leading 6-0, 1-0.

Kyrgios would definitely be able to keep his head held up high despite the loss. He played with complete focus and determination throughout the tournament and seemed like a different player, and human being.

He acknowledged Thiem in the post-match press conference and hailed him as “one hell of a player” and said that wished him luck for the rest of the tournament.

In the end, it was almost poetic that Kyrgios bowed out along with the Melbourne crowd. Just like Thor derives his power from Asgard, Kyrgios seemed to draw his power from the crowd. With no crowd in place for the next two rounds at least, seeing Kyrgios play in an empty stadium would have been eerie.

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