Kyrgios, fans exit after thriller as Australian Open shuts doors | Daily News

Kyrgios, fans exit after thriller as Australian Open shuts doors

Austria's Dominic Thiem (R) and Australia's Nick Kyrgios greet each other after their men's singles match on day five of the Australian Open. - AFP
Austria's Dominic Thiem (R) and Australia's Nick Kyrgios greet each other after their men's singles match on day five of the Australian Open. - AFP

Melbourne, Friday: A departing Nick Kyrgios thrilled the crowd one last time as the Australian Open kicked out fans late on Friday before a state-wide snap coronavirus lockdown goes into force.

Thousands of fans, mostly unmasked, watched the flamboyant Australian flame out over five sets against US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who clawed his way back from two sets down.

Public announcements warned fans to be home by midnight, when six million people across Victoria state go into a five-day lockdown to curb an outbreak of the highly contagious UK strain.

In the evening's final match, defending champion Novak Djokovic was leading America's Taylor Fritz by two sets to one when play was suspended at 11:30 pm (1230 GMT) to allow fans to leave Rod Laver Arena.

The Australian Open, which has encountered severe coronavirus problems and started three weeks late, was the first tennis Grand Slam to welcome fans in large numbers since the pandemic.

But it will continue behind closed doors and with players in a biosecure "bubble" during the five-day lockdown, after the cluster of 13 cases centred on an airport hotel.

"It's rough. It's going to be a rough few days for everyone," said America's Serena Williams, who learned of the lockdown when she came off court.

"It's not ideal -- it's been really fun now with the crowd back. But at the end of the day we have to do what's best."

With 22,299 spectators on Friday, the best attendance so far, Williams and Naomi Osaka safely reached the last 16 along with fellow major-winner Simona Halep.

Kyrgios, the main attraction for Australian fans, threatened a titanic upset against third-ranked Thiem before going down 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

"Tonight was epic and a good last match before lockdown, it's sad to say," said Austria's Thiem, who next plays Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov.

Earlier Williams survived an error-strewn performance to beat Russia's Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 and set up an encounter with powerful Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

The 39-year-old American, tracking a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, dished up 31 unforced errors -- but was given a big helping hand by Potapova, 19, who hit five double faults when trying to serve out the first set.

Osaka was troubled by a butterfly that landed on her nose during an otherwise routine 6-3, 6-2 victory over Tunisian 27th seed Ons Jabeur.

Osaka's next opponent is two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza, who continued her formidable form with a one-sided 6-1, 6-1 win over Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas. - AFP