Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers when they collide in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday. They did, however, square off in the recent International Premier Tennis League. In this past December’s exhibition team event, Kyrgios dominated a set against Berdych 6-2. But even the 20-year-old Aussie knows that means next to nothing as a far more important showdown looms large on the horizon.
“It’s completely different,” he assured. “You can’t compare Grand Slams to IPTL. I know what he’s capable of. He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s going to be wanting to win as much as I’m going to be wanting to win, so it’s going to be tough.”
Berdych has been especially tough Down Under. He has reached at least the quarterfinals on five consecutive occasions, including the quarterfinals twice in a row. The sixth-ranked Czech is off to a strong start this time around with straight-set beatdowns of Yuki Bhambri and Mirza Basic.
Kyrgios blew a two-set lead over Benoit Paire in the 2014 second round but made amends for that blunder by going all the way to the quarters last year. Coming off a tumultuous 2015 campaign, Kyrgios is a fine form to begin this season. He led Australia to a team title at the Hopman Cup and has run into no trouble so far this fortnight while rolling over Pablo Carreno Busta and Pablo Cuevas.
“[He’s] definitely a rising star coming up,” Berdych commented. “He has, definitely, a game to play a big matches–play with a big opponents. He’s going to play aggressive. He’s serving well. I have to be really, really…focused from the first point.”
Through two rounds, Kyrgios has 35 aces and only one double-fault. More of the same may be enough for the underdog, who will have all of the crowd support against Berdych. The only thing that is entirely certain is that the atmosphere will be electric.
Prediction – Kyrgios in five sets