Roger Federer handed Nick Kyrgios a 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 tennis masterclass by storming into the fourth round of the US Open on Saturday with a ruthless display that left the Australian talking to himself and waving the white flag.
With all three of their previous meetings requiring a third-set tiebreak to decide the winner, a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium had expected high drama but instead witnessed a rout as Federer recorded his third win against the unpredictable Australian.
The match was not only an intriguing contrast in styles but also in temperament, with Federer, tennis’s ultimate good guy, taking on Kyrgios, the sport’s undisputed bad boy.
While the 37-year-old Federer has mined the most out of his immense skill to capture a record 20 Grand Slam titles, including five US Opens, Kyrgios remains one of the sport’s great enigmas, widely viewed as one of tennis’s great talents and biggest underachievers.
While Federer is usually all business and Kyrgios the showman, the roles were reversed midway through the third set on Saturday when the Swiss produced a trick shot that left the Australian wide-eyed and open mouthed.
Chasing down a cheeky drop shot, the Swiss hit it inches off the ground and curled it around the net post for a ridiculous winner that earned him a standing ovation from the hollering crowd.
“If anyone else is doing those shots against me, I’m probably not too happy. But it’s Roger,” smiled Kyrgios. “It was almost unreal.
“Almost got to the point where I wanted him to start making shots like that, and I finally got it.”
Cool, controlled and clinical, Federer fans can count on the very best from the Swiss each and every time he steps onto the court.
Kyrgios, on the other hand, is a ticking time bomb ready to go off at any moment, all power and furry one minute, disinterested clown the next.
The Australian had already found himself at the centre of a Flushing Meadows controversy this week when umpire Mohamed Lahyani felt it necessary to get down from his chair during Kyrgios’s second round match against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert to urge him to show some interest.
On Saturday, umpire James Keothavong stayed in his chair and watched on with the rest of the 23,000-capacity crowd as the big-hitting Australian mumbled away to himself while facing an array of exquisite Federer winners that kept flying past his racket.
The match got off to a promising start with neither player able to gain an advantage.
But the tide quickly turned in Federer’s favour when Kyrgios could not convert any of four break chances at 3-3 in first.
After Kyrgios held at 4-4 Federer seized control and never let go. He roared through the next seven games, breaking the crumbling Australian to take the opening set then breaking him twice more in the second for a 5-0 lead.
“At 3-3, love-40, I take one of those points, the match is wide open,” said Kyrgios. “He’s not going to play as well as he did towards the end of the first set or into the second set.
“Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
“I know how to beat him. I have beaten him before. Obviously not today.”
By the third set Kyrgios was running out of ideas as Federer kept up the pressure and broke Kyrgios for a 6-5 lead. An ace on match point finished off the job.
Inspired Kohlschreiber sees off Alexander Zverev in four sets
An out-of-sorts Alexander Zverev was dumped out of the US Open third round on Saturday after losing a fierce battle of wills with compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber in four sets.
The Germans were meeting for the fifth time with Zverev having won the last two encounters but there was little the fourth seed could do to stop an inspired Kohlschreiber, who won 6-7(1) 6-4 6-1 6-3 at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The versatile 34-year-old showed none of the mental fragility that has dogged him in the past, recovering well after being trounced in a first set tiebreak to set up a last 16 meeting with Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 21st seed.
Zverev, billed as the most likely of the new generation of players to break the stranglehold that Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic have had on the sport’s biggest prizes, showed once again that he is not yet the finished article.
Like Kohlschreiber, the 21-year-old is an excellent all-round player and possesses a far more potent serve than his countryman, but his temperament under pressure is also suspect.
Zverev teamed up with Ivan Lendl ahead of the US Open, bringing the eight-times Grand Slam champion on to his coaching staff in an attempt to take the next step in his career.
Going by the evidence served up on Saturday, Lendl has his work cut out for him.
“It’s a process,” Zverev told reporters. “I took (Lendl) to do well at slams, but this is a process. You can’t expect to kind of immediately see the results. I think the results will come next year.
“He told me before the tournament started that, hopefully you’ll do very well at the US Open, but we’re more looking towards… being at the latter stages, competing for slams next year.”
Zverev committed 53 unforced errors, seven double faults, was helpless against Kohlschreiber’s backhand slice and lacked any sort of killer instinct, converting only three of his 13 break point opportunities.
“(Kohlschreiber) has everything,” Zverev added. “He can use a lot of top spin, can hit the ball flat, use a lot of slice. He can mix it up well. It’s tough to get a rhythm against him sometimes.”
Zverev cut an increasingly frustrated figure as the tide turned against him, talking to himself and turning to the player’s box time and again in the hope of a solution.
He conceded defeat with a forehand error, sending Kohlschreiber into the fourth round for the fifth time in his career.
“It was a very entertaining match,” Kohlschreiber said in his on-court interview. “You have Sascha with the big serve, big strokes, but I was very happy with the variety in my play.”
Novak Djokovic hits the Gasquet to speed into last-16
Novak Djokovic enjoyed his first routine victory at this year’s US Open at the third attempt on Saturday as the two-time champion eased into the fourth round with a 6-2 6-3 6-3 win over flamboyant Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
The sixth-seeded Serb needed four sets to despatch his first two opponents, struggling especially in the opening round against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in searing daytime temperatures at the start of the week.
However, the Wimbledon champion started brightly under the floodlights at Arthur Ashe Stadium against the 26th seed and never looked back, sealing a comfortable triumph in two hours and 11 minutes.
“It was my best match of the week so far, without a doubt,” Djokovic told reporters. “One of the best performances I had in the hard court season after Wimbledon.
“I thought I was playing on a very high level from the first point. Very, very pleased with the performance.”
Djokovic won 75 percent of his first serves, struck 32 winners and saved each of the five break points he faced as the 32-year-old Gasquet’s game collapsed under the weight of his 47 unforced errors.
The win marked the 13th time Djokovic had beaten Gasquet in 14 meetings, with the Serb winning his last 11 matches against the Frenchman.
Victory keeps the 13-times Grand Slam champion on track for a potential quarter-final showdown against second seed Roger Federer, who saw off Nick Kyrgios in straight sets earlier in the day.
Next up for the Serb, however, is a last-16 clash with unseeded Portuguese Joao Sousa.
“He’s a fighter, he’s a grinder,” Djokovic said. “He will not hand you the victory, you’ve got to earn it… I’m really glad I didn’t spend too much time on the court tonight. I’m going to get some rest and move on to the next one.”
“Look, I know that I’m clear favorite in the match. At the same time I will try to maintain the level of focus and performance and level of tennis that I’ve had today. If it’s like that, then I have a good chance to win.”
Marin Cilic survives epic battle to scrape past teenage Alex De Minaur
Seventh seed Marin Cilic was forced to recover from two sets down to battle past Australian teenager Alex de Minaur 4-6 3-6 6-3 6-4 7-5 in a marathon contest that went deep into the night at the US Open on Saturday.
Cilic, the 2014 champion, may have been justified in expecting an easier pathway past the third round, but the 19-year-old De Minaur has already earned a reputation for having an abundance of fighting spirit in his relatively short career.
Where his compatriot Nick Kyrgios slumped to a tame loss at the hands of Roger Federer earlier in the day, De Minaur started on the front foot, running down everything Cilic sent over the net to carve out a 2-0 lead.
Cilic rallied behind his big serve but De Minaur made the Croatian work hard for every point all the way to the bitter end at 2.22 a.m. local time (0622 GMT), only a few minutes short of the latest ever finish at the US Open.
“Incredibly happy, it was just an insane atmosphere,” Cilic said on the Louis Armstrong Stadium court after setting up a last 16 meeting with David Goffin.
“Incredible fighting spirit. He played some amazing tennis. I was just a little bit luckier today.
“It doesn’t get any better. What time is it? Two-thirty in the morning and everybody staying around? To come from two sets down, it’s one of the best matches in my career.”
Trailing 5-2 in the final set and serving to stay alive, De Minaur staved off five match points to force Cilic to win the match on his own serve, and then saved another before breaking the Croatian and bringing the score to 5-4.
He held on to level at 5-5 before Cilic held to love and broke again to seal the match on his eighth match point in three hours and 59 minutes.
Cilic hit 14 aces to De Minaur’s four but the Croatian, who won 73 percent of his first serves, was undermined by inconsistency, making 70 unforced errors.
Both players were neck-and-neck from the baseline, but De Minaur’s gritty performance was well reflected by the fact that he saved 20 of the 28 break points he faced.
In the end the crowd were firmly on the fresh-faced youngster’s side, willing him on to victory and giving him a standing ovation as he walked off the court in defeat at the end of the epic contest.