February 10, 2021
Nick Kyrgios and the Aussie crowd answered the big question that had been on everyone’s mind in recent weeks.
Does a reduced-capacity crowd diminish the atmosphere and overall Grand Slam experience in any way?
A resounding answer to that question came through the response to Kyrgios and his heroics: emphatically not!
You can raise the roof with half the number of spectators. You can make a sporting contest unforgettable for its passion and atmosphere.
And that’s fantastic news for the fan experience at Wimbledon 2021.
Kyrgios saved two match points against brilliant French youngster Ugo Humbert and ultimately triumphed 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 to bring the house down in Melbourne.
The atmosphere was electric! And it felt like the pandemic had been well and truly beaten by our universal love for our fantastic sport.
Kyrgios said later: ‘When the crowd was going nuts I felt more composed. They were so loud.’
It made for a truly mesmerising event and now Kyrgios is through to play Dominic Thiem, last year’s finalist. Just imagine the atmosphere for that one!
Sometimes, in their passion for Kyrgios, the Australian Open spectators crossed the line. They cheered faults by Nick’s opponent incessantly.
Maybe they can be forgiven that just this once, after all the rigid discipline that Australians have had to show to beat the global threat to their beloved sport.
But we still don’t think the crowd will cheer faults at Wimbledon 2021. Anyone who has tried that in the past has quickly been shouted down.
Maybe that overriding sportsmanship from all concerned in London is what makes Wimbledon unique. We would still like to think we will see all the passion of the Australian Open at Wimbledon 2021, though.
This was tennis drama at its most gripping. This was sporting theatre at its finest.
Even Kyrgios thought he was down and out. Nick admitted graciously: ‘Ugo is a hell of a player. He had me on the ropes, one point away, he deserved to win. You don’t want to know the dark thoughts that were in my head.’
As with any match involving Kyrgios, this was box office from start to finish. Controversy was never far away.
There were underarm serves, tweener attempts, furious arguments with the umpire over a twitchy net sensor, foul language and a point deduction, and constant crowd participation.
Rightly or wrongly, it all made for irresistible entertainment and there were a mind-blowing 137 winners to cheer during the match.
And the drama of the Australian Open wasn’t restricted to the Kyrgios match.
Simona Halep was 2-5 down in the final set before beating Ajla Tumljanovic 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. The current Wimbledon champion does not go down easily at Slams.
And 2019 Wimbledon finalist Serena Williams is in stunning form. She defeated Nina Stojanovic 6-3, 6-0 and she has only lost five games in total during her convincing passage to round three.
Can she finally win that elusive 24th Slam? She is certainly looking the part.
All this bodes well for Wimbledon 2021.
And one more superstar was quietly starting his preparations for the big one about 9,000 miles away from Melbourne.
A few hours before all those Kyrgios heroics, Sir Andy Murray had been going about his business in encouraging style.
Murray beat Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3 in a second-tier Challenger event at Biella in northern Italy.
He plays local hero Gian Marco Moroni next and the Englishman is just thrilled to be playing again.
Murray is probably Nick’s best friend on the tour. The tennis experiences of Kyrgios and Murray in the last 24 hours could hardly have been more different. Except that they both fought hard and they both won.
But fear not. The paths of Sir Andy Murray and his friend Nick Kyrgios will converge at Wimbledon 2021 in front of enthusiastic spectators.
They will both take centre stage at the biggest tournament of them all.
We can’t wait. How about you?