In the press room after his enthralling five-set win over Ugo Humbert, Nick Kyrgios had a lot of nice things to say about his third-round opponent Dominic Thiem.
"He's probably one of the most physical guys on tour. He's an extremely good player.
"He trains like an absolute animal. He's consistent every day. And I actually have a lot of respect for him. I think his style of tennis is not easy to play. He's super physical. But I'm not even thinking about it. Like, I'm just hurting thinking about playing him right now."
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He wasn't quite so flattering in an Instagram Live with his mate Andy Murray last year, when he talked about why he enjoyed playing for Team World in the Laver Cup - explaining that he liked spending time with his friends in the squad and didn't think he would get on so well with Europeans...particularly Thiem.
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"Do you think me and Dominic Thiem would vibe? No. I'm more invested in maybe, like, a nice cocktail. But my boy D Thiem would be like 'I want to see this paint dry'."
At least Kyrgios is aware that he'll be put to the test against Thiem.
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Speaking on Matchball Becker on Eurosport in Germany, six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker went as far as to describe the Austrian's performance in the second round as "almost perfect".
And Eurosport tennis expert and seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander says that it's time for Kyrgios to prove himself.
"It’s a typical situation for Nick Kyrgios – does he have enough hours in repetition on the practice court to be able to threaten someone like Dominic Thiem after a match like he had today against Humbert? We’ve seen it in the past that it’s tough for him to come back but it’s a scenario that’s being repeated at the Australian Open nearly every year. Nick plays a great match on that court, maybe two matches, and then he comes and plays a better guy and he’s running out of steam a little bit because it’s so emotional for him to play. On paper, it’s great – it’s a fast court, Nick can serve out of his mind. It’s a tough match and Nick will have to hit a lot of aces to have a chance in that match, you would think.
"I think he needs to win this type of match if he is to go to that next level. He played Dimitrov a couple of years ago, big match but didn’t win it. And that’s what I mean, he needs to prove to himself that he can win a match like that and take out one of the best players in the world in the following round. That’s what he hasn’t done. We know he can win five-setters, but can he back it up, and actually win the next round against a world-class player? That’s the question."
Meltdowns and magic as Kyrgios beats Humbert in unforgettable five-setter
Kyrgios admitted that after getting past the young Frenchman he felt like an old, weary veteran, and is well aware that onlookers are ready to pounce on him should he slip up - on or off the court.
"I'm not trying to play a victim here, but I don't live under a rock," he told reporters. "I know I caught a lot of flack for everything I do. Sometimes I don't read it, but, like, it's not hard to miss when I wake up and go to Instagram and it's just subconsciously there. My mind is taking it all in. I mean, it's not easy to just put it behind you. I have been dealing with it -- I started dealing with this when I was 17, 18. I was like a child then. Do you know what I mean? I know now I try and block it out. I'm more mature and stuff, but it's still not easy."
Kyrgios knows all eyes are on him. Winning a five-set duel with an up-and-comer like Humbert with a partisan crowd on his side - saving match points, no less - is one thing, but Friday will present a different challenge.
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