MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Local hope Nick Kyrgios has been elevated to the Rod Laver Arena for his meeting with childhood hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open on Friday, when Melbourne Park is again expected to swelter.
With world number one Rafa Nadal moved out to Margaret Court Arena for his third round meeting with Damir Dzumhur, 17th seed Kyrgios and Tsonga will share the evening billing with women’s number two Caroline Wozniacki on the main showcourt.
Wozniacki meets Kiki Bertens after fourth seed Elina Svitolina gets another test of the injury “issues” she has been dealing with when she meets 15-year-old fellow-Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in the full blaze of the afternoon sun.
Men’s third seed Grigor Dimitrov will be hoping to dispense quickly with Russian Andrey Rublev and get back into the air conditioning after getting caught up in a energy draining five-setter with American MacKenzie McDonald in round two.
Kyrgios will hope the temperatures have dipped from the forecast peak of 40 degrees Celsius by the time he comes out to face Frenchman Tsonga, losing finalist at Melbourne Park a decade ago.
“When I was 12, I went to all his practice sessions,” Kyrgios recalled after his second round victory over Viktor Troicki.
“He made the final in 2008. I went to all his practice sessions with a new ball. He signed it every day. I don’t know if he remembers.”
Tsonga needed five sets to see off another young gun in Denis Shapovalov in round two on Tuesday and Kyrgios thinks the crowd are going to be in for another entertaining contest.
“I’ve seen him play a lot,” he said. “I know what he’s going to bring. He knows what I’m going to bring. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Kyrgios played his first two matches on his more favoured Hisense Arena but said he was ready to move on to Rod Laver Arena after a string of distractions in his match against Troicki.
“Rod Laver is one of the best stadiums in the world ... I think I’ll be fine on it,” he said.
Three-times Australian Open champion Mats Wilander, though, said that Kyrgios might miss the energy of the crowd on Hisense.
“I think the problem will be when he moves from Hisense Arena which is ground pass holders and a wild crowd to moving to the Rod Laver Arena,” he told Reuters.
“It’s a different crowd at Rod Laver Arena. They obviously root for him but they’re not as young and as wild, they’re more neutral.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Pritha Sarkar