Nick Kyrgios of Australia plays a forehand in his Men’s Singles match against Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic during day two of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 27, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) Photo: Julian FinneyCanberra junior Nick Kyrgios has proven he’s the “real deal”, celebrating his grand slam debut with a sensational straight-sets victory at the French Open.
Kyrgios’ junior coach and former professional, Todd Larkham, predicted the 18- year-old could crack the world’s top-100 by the end of the year after his 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (13-11) win over tour veteran Radek Stepanek at Roland Garros.
Three Australian men – including former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt – failed to progress past the opening day of the French Open.
But Kyrgios, the only Australian playing on day two, gave the country a boost with the breakthrough victory of his burgeoning professional career.
Kyrgios only turned 18 last month and is still eligible to play on the world junior tour, becoming the world’s No.1 ranked youngster when he won the Australian Junior Open singles title in January.
But handed a golden ticket to his grand slam debut with a wildcard, Kyrgios was able to defeat one of the tour’s most seasoned
players. Stepanek turned professional in 1996, the year after Kyrgios was born, and the former world No.8 has amassed almost $9 million in prize money.
Kyrgios’ senior ranking has already soared more than 600 places this year, currently at 262.
”It makes a statement that he’s really arrived,” Larkham said. ”I kind of expected he’d get there, but I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
”To win against such an experienced player in your first grand slam, and to win all the close points in that match, shows that he’s the real deal.
”This eclipses winning the Australian Open juniors … this is a completely different level.”
Clay is Kyrgios’ least favourite surface, his power game and father’s Greek heritage earning him comparisons to former Australian professional Mark Philippoussis.
Kyrgios won the first set in a tie-break and took an early break in the second set, before seemingly giving up the advantage when he trailed 1-6 in the second-set tie-break.
But showing incredible poise under pressure, Kyrgios fought back to take the tie-break 10-8.
”That’s absolutely extraordinary in men’s tennis, it’s so rare,” Larkham said. ”I’ve seen him do similar things in the juniors, he’s got this unbelievable competitive ability that no one can teach.”
Kyrgios’ next round opponent was not determined at the time of print, but it is expected to be tenth seed and big-hitting Croatian Marin Cilic.
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