Preview: Will Kyrgios Upset Medvedev At The Australian Open?

  • Posted: Jan 19, 2022

If you ask Nick Kyrgios, the best player in the world right now is Daniil Medvedev — the man he’ll be squaring off against on Thursday night in Melbourne. As for Medvedev, his pick to win the 2022 Australian Open hails from Spain.

“I always say that whoever is the highest-ranked is the favourite. So this time I’m going to go with Rafa, because he has 20 Grand Slams,” the World No. 2 said with a laugh in a recent interview.

Of course, Medvedev is the top-ranked man in the Australian Open field following the withdrawal of Novak Djokovic. But Kyrgios has the firepower to pull off what only the World No. 1 has managed to do in the past 12 months: beat the Russian at a hard-court Slam.

“It’s going to be a hell of an experience for me,” said the fan-favourite Aussie. “I’m pretty excited for that moment. That’s why I play the game.”

Kyrgios has made John Cain Arena his home throughout his AO career, and he did so again on Tuesday in a flashy 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 first-round win against British qualifier Liam Broady. On Thursday, he’ll take his talents—underhand tweener serve and all—to Rod Laver Arena.

History says that Kyrgios matches up well with Medvedev. He holds a 2-0 ATP Head2Head record against the reigning US Open champion, though both those matches came in 2019 as Medvedev was first breaking into the Top 10.

Nick Kyrgios
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
You’ll have to go even further back—to late 2017—to see Andy Murray’s name in the Top 10. But the former World No. 1 is increasingly showing that sort of form in recent months. After wins over Jannik Sinner, Hubert Hurkacz and Carlos Alcaraz to close out 2021, Murray has continued to raise the bar in the new year.

On the heels of a run to the Sydney Tennis Classic final, the five-time Australian Open finalist produced a trademark win against 23rd seed Nikoloz Basilashvili to reach the second round in Melbourne. The 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 result made it two wins over the Georgian in two weeks for Murray, and gave the Scot a win in his first AO appearance since the emotional 2019 tournament at which he announced his potential retirement.

Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel stands between Murray and what would be his second trip to the third round of a Slam since 2017 (Wimbledon 2021).

“I would love to have a deep run here if possible,” Murray said following his first-round win. “It is something I have not had at one of the Slams since I came back from the injury and it is something that motivates me. I have played some of my best tennis here over the years and I feel comfortable here.”

Murray could face a rematch with Sinner, who he beat in Stockholm in November, in the third round. The 11th-seeded Italian faces American Steve Johnson on Thursday in the Margaret Court Arena nightcap.

This is all in a quarter anchored by fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who made a smooth return from an elbow injury in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 first-round win over Sweden’s Mikael Ymer. A semi-finalist last year in Melbourne, the Greek faces Argentina’s Sebastian Baez in the second round.

Stefanos Tsitsipas
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
An all-American tussle between 20th seed Taylor Fritz and 2019 AO quarter-finalist Frances Tiafoe will play out on John Cain Arena, with Fritz playing his first Slam as the No. 1 American man. The California native earned that distinction by reaching the semi-finals at Indian Wells in October, and he’s carried that form into 2022 with a pair of three-set ATP Cup wins over Felix Auger-Aliassime and Cameron Norrie.

Other notable matchups in the Tsitsipas section include 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov against Benoit Paire and 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

In the draw’s bottom quarter, veteran Richard Gasquet and rising 26-year-old Botic van de Zandschulp will face off for the right to take on the Medvedev-Kyrgios winner. Playing in his first Aussie Open since 2018, the 35-year-old Gasquet upset fellow Frenchman and 29th seed Ugo Humbert 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3 in the first round. If he can beat the Dutchman on Thursday, he’ll be through to the Round of 32 at a Slam for the first time since 2018.

Van de Zandschulp, who reached a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 56 last week, will be motivated by the prospect of a rematch with Medvedev. The two met for the first time in the US Open quarter-finals, where the Russian advanced in four sets. But the Dutch No. 1, who qualified for the New York main draw, was the only player to take a set off the eventual champion that fortnight.

Andrey Rublev, having shown no signs of rust in his 2022 debut, will take on Ricardas Berankis as he looks to continue on a quarter-final collision course with Medvedev. Rounding out the bottom section’s seeded action are ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime (vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina), 13th seed Diego Schwartzman (vs. Christopher O’Connell), 24th seed Daniel Evans (vs. Arthur Rinderknech) and 27th seed Marin Cilic (vs. qualifier Norbert Gombos).

The Day 4 slate will pave the way for the third round, as just 32 men will be left standing in the singles competition following a full day of action at Melbourne Park.

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