Kyrgios turnaround wins praise from tennis great
NICK Kyrgios has the world at his feet and the nation by his side as he storms into battle for a quarter-final berth at the Australian Open.
Critics yesterday said the polarising 22-year-old was finally showing signs of becoming a true champion, shaking off the angst and attitude that had for too long turned the public off.
Kyrgios is the last Aussie player standing after women's hope Ashleigh Barty was barrelled out in straight sets.
He faces world No.3 Grigor Dimitrov in a centre court showdown tonight.
His family was among hundreds of fans who crammed on to a practice court to see him in action yesterday as the largest daytime crowd in the event's history flooded into Melbourne Park.
Kyrgios looked at ease during the hit-up, even interacting with fans eager for a signature or a selfie.
Parents Giorgio and Norlaila were keeping a lid on their expectations.
"Everybody can see how proud we are," his mother told the Sunday Herald Sun. "We are absolutely proud that he is developing into a nice young fellow."
But, his father added, his boy "always was".
Eleven-time grand slam winner Rod Laver said Kyrgios might have finally turned the corner.
"He has got the experience, he has played some tough matches - now it is just a matter of putting it all together."
Laver's comments follow a day of drama at Melbourne Park where fans vented their fury at organisers when Barty's clash with Japan's Naomi Osaka was swapped from Rod Laver Arena to Margaret Court Arena.
"What a rip-off," tweeted one. "Paid top dollar to see Barty at Rod Laver Arena ... so how can you just move the match to Margaret Court Arena without any announcements or notice???? Furious!!"
Tournament chiefs said the change was necessary after Simona Halep and Lauren Davis fought out a near four-hour, three-set clash.
World No.1 Halep survived three match points in what was eventually a monster 48-game tie break in the third, rounding out at three hours and 45 minutes - a record-equalling time for the longest women's match in the history of the Australian Open.
Halep's Aussie coach, Darren Cahill, said it was an epic showdown.
"You sit through one of those matches every 10 years," he said.
"I don't think I've sat through a match like that as a coach before. It is actually easier to play them than watch them."
More than 62,674 attended yesterday's daytime session, the largest daytime crowd of all time and 4319 more than the record set last year.