ZB

Kyrgios leads Aussie pair to gripping win over Kiwi Venus

Author
Michael Burgess, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 26 Jan 2022, 8:58am
Michael Venus was unable to withstand a fired-up Nick Kyrgios in their doubles quarter-final. (Photos / Getty)
Michael Venus was unable to withstand a fired-up Nick Kyrgios in their doubles quarter-final. (Photos / Getty)

Kyrgios leads Aussie pair to gripping win over Kiwi Venus

Author
Michael Burgess, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 26 Jan 2022, 8:58am

Michael Venus and his German partner Tim Puetz are out of the Australian Open doubles, edged in a riveting contest with local duo Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis. 

The sixth seeds fought courageously in the quarter-final, but eventually fell 7-5 3-6 6-3 in a 136-minute epic. 

It was a humdinger of a match, one of the best of the tournament, made more gripping by the ferocious Australian support, with the large crowd disregarding the usual protocols around tennis sportsmanship and fair play. 

It was extraordinary and there probably hasn't been that much hate directed towards a Kiwi sportsman in Victoria since Sir Richard Hadlee's brilliance was winding up the MCG in the 1980s. 

That intensity provided Kyrgios and Kokkinakis with an edge, and their booming serves and groundstrokes did the rest, though Venus and Puetz showed tremendous fight, allied with their superior doubles instincts. 

The Australians sent down a staggering 25 aces (to six by their opponents), which eventually proved too much. 

The packed Kia Arena engendered a brilliant, if brutal atmosphere, especially as the consumption of Victoria Bitter increased across the afternoon. 

Venus is a veteran of the ATP circuit – but probably hasn't faced such an environment in his career. 

There were incessant "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" chants and loud booing during serves, which only intensified as the match wore on. 

The gravity of the assignment was underlined in the opening game. The large crowd let out a vociferous cheer when Venus missed a first serve, ignoring the pleas of the umpire for quiet. 

It's generally unheard on the tour, only reserved for the most parochial Davis Cup ties. 

Venus was frazzled for a moment, with a couple of double faults to trail 30-40. But the 34-year-old showed poise under pressure with a wide second serve to defend the break point, before a tough hold. 

There were relatively straightforward holds over the next six games, with the Australians relying on their booming serves, while the Venus-Puetz combination employed more orthodox doubles. 

There was typical Kyrgios drama, as a wayward smash – of a dead ball – hit a young fan in the grandstand, who was grimacing in pain, though comforted somewhat when the Australian gave him racket. 

Kokkinakis defended two break points at 3-4, one with a gutsy second serve catching the line. The hometown favourites then grabbed a vital break in the 11th game, with Venus missing a tough volley a 30-40, before holding to take the first set in 51 minutes. 

It was high-octane tennis. The Australians had banged down 13 aces and only lost two points when their first serve landed. 

Their opponents responded, breaking the formidable Kyrgios serve in the second game of the next set, thanks to a precise Puetz return and clutch Venus finish. 

Puetz then dug himself out of massive hole, saving four break points to hold for 3-0. 

Kyrgios had a trademark outburst, accusing the umpire of double standards as she allowed Puetz some leeway between serves. 

Venus and Puetz looked comfortable, as their return game improved considerably – but blew three set points at 5-3 up, to bring the Australians back into the match. 

It looked ominous, but Venus fought back from 0-40 down, then nailed a clutch serve on his first set point. 

The Australians seemed to lose focus at that point, with both complaining to the umpire about Venus being allowed multiple ball tosses. 

The scratch combination had failed to convert seven break points in the second set, but found their edge again in the third, breaking the Puetz serve in the fourth game with some deadly returns. 

It remained tight. Kokkinakis was under pressure, saving a break point at 4-2 in the final set, but the Australians maintained their advantage for a popular win, with Kyrgios converting their second match point.