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Nick Kyrgios becomes face of Australian Open

Australia native Kyrgios is still a draw for fans at the Australian OpenGETTY IMAGES

In a major tournament "bereft of genuine drawcards and crowd-pleasers," the head honchos at Tennis Australia "would have to be breathing a massive sigh of relief, thinking: thank goodness for Nick Kyrgios," according to Jake Michaels of ESPN.com. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic joined the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams -- "arguably the sport's three most marketable and broadcast-friendly players -- on the sidelines." Within minutes of the Djokovic verdict being handed down, British analytics company Search Intelligence reported that search trends for Australian Open ticket refunds "fared 25% higher than anything associated with purchasing tournament tickets." Throw the COVID-19 pandemic into the picture and it was a "recipe for a rather scarcely-attended fortnight Down Under." But as long as "local hope Kyrgios" is still in the draw, there are "still plenty of reasons for fans to flock to Melbourne Park." There is "almost no one else on our who can generate excitement and wow spectators." Kyrgios entertained the John Cain Arena crowd "in his own unique way en route to a comfortable 6-4,6-4,6-3 win inside two hours." Michaels: "Who would dare even consider vacating their seat? 'King Kyrgios' is always box office entertainment." He hit tweeners, behind-the-back shots, kicked a tennis ball into the stands and, after his place in the second round was "secure, enjoyed a cheeky sip of beer." The crowd, of course, "lapped it all up" (ESPN.com, 1/18).

ENDLESS ENTERTAINMENT: In Melbourne, Michael Gleeson writes Kyrgios matches are "sport as immersive theatre." He is "always half-player, half-performer and this night he wanted to perform as much as play" (Melbourne AGE, 1/18). THE AUSTRALIAN's Will Swanton writes when Alex de Minaur was playing Lorenzo Musetti that was the "superior match" but when decision time came, "you found yourself going to the circus." Kyrgios "might win, lose, forfeit, retire, play the lights out or burn the joint to the ground" -- "unmissable" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/18).

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