Nick Kyrgios. Picture: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images/AFP
Nick Kyrgios. Picture: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images/AFP

Kyrgios laughing after wild US Open upset

If Nick Kyrgios was smiling after landing in the only quarter of the US Open draw without a member of the Big Three he's positively laughing now.

Three of the toughest opponents standing between the Australian and a run to his first grand slam semi-final were knocked out in the first round on Wednesday morning (AEST).

Greek eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas suffered his second consecutive first round exit at a major after going down to rising Russian star Andrey Rublev.

World number 43 Rublev, who ousted Roger Federer at the recent Cincinnati Open in only 62 minutes, defeated a cramping Tsitsipas 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (9/7) 7-5 after three hours and 54 minutes to book a place in the second round against France's Gilles Simon.

The winner of that match will await Kyrgios in the third round, if the Aussie can negotiate American Steve Johnson at 10.15am on Wednesday and then defeat the winner of Leonardo Mayer-Antoine Hoang in the second round.

If Tsitsipas' defeat was a surprise, the exit of 10th seed Roberto Bautista Agut was even more stunning.

The Spanish star made the quarters of the Australian Open and the semi-finals at Wimbledon this year but fell in five sets to Mikhail Kukushkin 3-6 6-1 6-4 3-6 6-3. Agut was Kyrgios' likely opponent if he made it to the fourth round.

But it became even better for the kid from Canberra. Fourth seed Dominic Thiem - who Kyrgios would have met in the quarters - was dumped out by Thomas Fabbiano 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2, meaning the highest-ranked player remaining in his quarter of the draw is 13th seed Gael Monfils.

It was a rough day for tennis's next generation as Britain's Kyle Edmund crashed out in five sets against Pablo Andujar 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 7-5 5-7 6-2 and sixth seed Alexander Zverev barely survived a five-setter of his own against Radu Albot 6-1 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-2.

POP ON TOP

Opportunity knocks for Alexei Popyrin after the Australian young gun surged into the second round of the US Open for the first time.

Popyrin, who only turned 20 this month, downed the vastly more experienced Federico Delbonis 6-1 7-5 7-6 (7-5) to notch yet another milestone in a breakout season for the former French Open junior champion.

After cracking the world's top 100 for the first time, then earning direct entry into a major for the first time, Popyrin has now reached at least the second round at all four grand slams in 2019.

He didn't have it easy, though, on Tuesday.

After breezing through the opening set in 23 minutes, Popyrin had to battle back from service breaks down in the second and third to keep the Argentine at bay.

Sporting matching T-shirts displaying "Pop on Top", Popyrin's parents rode every single point before their son indeed finished on top in a tick over two hours.

His reward is a meeting with Kukushkin after the Kazakh removed Agut.

Should he cash in on his good fortune, Popyrin could face countryman Jordan Thompson for a spot in the second week.

Thompson's 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory over Joao Sousa booked the Sydneysider a second-round date with Italy's 24th seed Matteo Berrettini, who ousted Richard Gasquet 6-4 6-3 2-6 6-2.

 

OSAKA SURVIVES A SCARE

Naomi Osaka put her right hand in the shape of a gun and pointed two fingers at her temple, her face grim as she looked toward her guest box.

She'd just dropped the second set, moments after wasting a match point, as her US Open title defence got off to a shaky start. Her body language told the story: the eye rolls, the balled up fists covering her face at a changeover, the racket resting atop her head.

Back in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where she beat Serena Williams in last year's chaotic final, the No. 1-seeded Osaka kept digging holes and kept climbing out of them, eventually emerging with a 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-2 victory over 84th-ranked Anna Blinkova of Russia in the first round.

"I don't think I've ever been this nervous in my life," Osaka told the crowd during her post-match interview. "For me, I just came off really slow and I never really found my rhythm." The 21-year-old from Japan wore a black sleeve over her left knee, which has been an issue recently.

But it wasn't so much her movement as her erratic strokes that presented problems for Osaka, who finished with 50 unforced errors, more than double Blinkova's total of 22.

"You kind of want to do well after you did well last year," Osaka said, when asked why she felt so many jitters while trailing 3-0 and 4-1 at the outset.

"Just definitely," she said, "didn't want to lose in the first round."

Only two US Open women's champions have lost in the first round the following year during the professional era: It happened in 2005 to Svetlana Kuznetsova and again in 2017 to Angelique Kerber - who was beaten by none other than Osaka, ranked 45th at the time and yet to get past the third round at a major tournament.

Look at her now, though. This victory, difficult as it was, stretched Osaka's winning streak in hard-court Grand Slam matches to 15, which includes her run to the titles at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and at the Australian Open in January.

Those helped her become the first Japanese tennis player to be ranked No. 1, a spot she regained this month.

In other early results on Day 2, two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza was eliminated by Alison Riske of the US 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, while two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic both won in straight sets.

News Corp Australia


HIGHWAY CLOSED: Fire stops traffic at Maryvale and The Gap

HIGHWAY CLOSED: Fire stops traffic at Maryvale and The Gap

THE popular route from Warwick to Brisbane has been shut in both directions as...

Brace yourselves: Fires set to get even worse

Brace yourselves: Fires set to get even worse

‘Severe’ fire conditions expected to heat up today

IN COURT: 75 people appearing in court today

premium_icon IN COURT: 75 people appearing in court today

A full list of people set to appear in Warwick Magistrates Court today.