BRITAIN’S Andy Murray is well versed in shouldering the hopes of a nation starved of tennis success – something his opponent in today’s Australian Open quarter-final, Nick Kyrgios, is learning all about.
Kyrgios, 19, is the cocky, fluoro-clad next big thing Down Under who shot to fame by knocking Rafael Nadal out of Wimbledon and now finds himself three matches from ending Melbourne’s 39-year wait for a home champion.
Murray, the first British Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry, hopes his greater experience will give him the edge when he faces a man eight years his junior at around 8:30am UK time.
“Obviously the crowd will be right behind him. That’s just something that I’ll have to deal with,” said the Scot. “I’ve played a lot of matches. I’ve played in the French Open against French players where the crowd can be very difficult. I’ve experienced it before, so hopefully I’ll deal with it well.”
Sixth seed Murray has already seen off one favourite of the boisterous Melbourne crowd in Marinko Matosevic, the Bosnia-born 29-year-old despatched in straight sets in the second round.
While Matosevic is nicknamed Mad Dog for his temper, Kyrgios has been dubbed Wild Thing – a reference to the 6ft 4in prospect’s own outbursts, powerful style of play and garish attire.
The world No53, who supports Tottenham and is a particular fan of Emmanuel Adebayor, has won just a handful of matches on the ATP World Tour, although the majority have come at grand slams.
Kyrgios followed his Nadal-conquering run to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon by reaching the last 32 at the US Open just weeks later.
World No1 Novak Djokovic swept into the last eight yesterday by beating Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller, while defending champion Stan Wawrinka also progressed. Women’s top seed Serena Williams remains on course to face sister Venus in the semi-finals.