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LONDON -- There is nothing more exciting in Grand Slam tennis than a taut five-set match.
On Thursday, the patrons on Court 2 were treated to nearly four hours of stomach-wrenching play as the dashing 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios finally put down No. 13 seed Richard Gasquet 10-8 in the ultimate scintillating set.
Kyrgios, the youngest player in the men's draw, saved an astonishing nine match points in the 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-5, 10-8 win. According to the International Tennis Federation, it was only the second time a male player saved that number in an Open era Grand Slam.
|Nick Kyrgios saved nine match points against Richard Gasquet.|
Then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and American Sam Querrey walked into the same venue and resumed their second-round match, which had been suspended the evening before at 9-all in the fifth.
It was, as you can imagine, an enormous tension convention. As the aces and winners mounted, it got harder and harder to breathe -- and that was merely the spectators.
In the end, two flying forehands that drifted long cost Querrey the match. Tsonga advanced 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 14-12.
Tsonga, who executed a sweet 1,080-degree spinning, fist-pumping celebration, is 4-0 in five-set matches at Wimbledon. Querrey has lost in five sets here the past three years, and is a career 2-9 in full-length matches.
"Undefeated, I can say in five," Tsonga said afterward. "I just practice for it. It's good. It's not easy. It's physically tough, it's a major and we have to be strong. I try to be."
In 73 total service games there were only three breaks, the last coming in the penultimate game, when Tsonga maneuvered Querrey out of position, and Querrey's forehand failed to land safely.
"It was a little anticlimactic, the fact that we had to come back," Querrey said. "Just kind of a bummer. Probably would've been more fun to stay out there last night. Couldn't do it because of lights.
"All in all, I thought I played well. Missed one too many forehands there at the end, and he did a good job closing it out."
This was an old-fashioned slugfest and the numbers were heavy duty:
Tsonga hit 37 aces and 97 winners, while Querrey had 33 aces and 93 winners.
Kyrgios had some nice numbers, too. The kid stroked 86 winners, 21 aces, and saved 14 of the 16 break points he faced.
The Aussie is ranked No. 144 on the world, but he is widely viewed as a future top-10 player. He received a wild card from the All England Club after he won the Challenger grass event at Nottingham. He defeated Stephane Robert in four sets in his Wimbledon debut, and now he's into the third round for the first time in five major appearances.
"My first-ever two sets love down, coming back and winning," Kyrgios said. "It's an amazing feeling. So proud of yourself the way you hung in and fought it out. I played some unbelievable tennis today."
Which is the more impressive achievement, coming back from two sets down -- or saving nine match points?
"I think two sets love down," Kyrgios said. "At that stage it seemed like a massive hill to climb. I stuck in there. I just fought and I gave myself the opportunity to win the match."
Another marathon for Isner
Coming into his second-round match here, American John Isner had played in an ATP World Tour-high 34 tiebreakers. The 6-foot-10 athlete's entire game is built around the idea that his serve is rather impregnable.
It proved so again Thursday when Isner defeated Jarkko Nieminen 7-6 (17), 7-6 (3), 7-5.
That first-set tiebreaker score is correct; Isner cashed in his eighth set point of the 19-17 frame when Nieminen's forehand sailed wide. It was, according to the ITF, the second-longest tiebreaker in 128 years of history at Wimbledon. In the 1973 first round, five-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg defeated Premjit Lall 20-18 in a final-set tiebreaker. At that time, tiebreakers were invoked when the score was 8-all in the third.
This wasn't the record 11-hour, 5-minute marathon that Isner needed to beat Nicolas Mahut here four years ago, but it did thrust Isner into uncharted territory. After failing to reach the third round in five previous appearances at Wimbledon, he's there for the first time.
One for the thumb
Although only one American man -- Isner -- made it to the third round here, there are no fewer than five U.S. women looking for a chance to reach the second week here at the All England Club.
Serena and Venus Williams are through, and so is 20-year-old Floridian Lauren Davis. On Thursday, they were joined by 19-year-old Madison Keys and 23-year-old Alison Riske.
Riske defeated Camila Giorgi 7-5 6-2. Keys handled No. 31-seeded Klara Koukalova 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-2.
The possibility of a sixth American woman in the third round looms; 18-year-old Victoria Duval had her match against Belinda Bencic postponed by a late rain shower. That match will be played Friday, weather permitting.
American men underserved
A pair of 21-year-old Americans ran into some top seeds Thursday, with predictable results.
Qualifier Denis Kudla fell to No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 -- in 88 minutes.
"Yeah, it was almost perfect game for me," the 24-year-old Japanese player said. "I able to break his serve early each set. I had more [time to] relax. Yeah, everything work well today."
Meanwhile, No. 8 Milos Raonic defeated Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. This was the first Wimbledon for the Nebraskan, while Raonic previously had advanced to the second round three years in a row. His best Wimbledon showing to date did not leave him giddy with delight.
"Might sound a little bit harsh, but not too much feeling for it," Raonic said. "I want to do much better than I have to this point -- and than I have today."
No. 13 seed Eugenie Bouchard, the 20-year-old Canadian, advanced to the third round by defeating wild card Silvia Soler-Espinosa 7-5, 6-1. Bouchard is trying to reach the semifinals of her third consecutive Grand Slam event . . . No. 5 seed Stan Wawrinka defeated Yen-Hsun Lu 7-6 (6), 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 . . . No. 5 Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, handled Timea Bacsinszky 6-1, 6-1 . . . No. 11 seed Ana Ivanovic took down Jie Zheng 6-4, 6-0.