WASHINGTON — Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios fought off six match points during a second-set tiebreaker against hometown favorite Frances Tiafoe, then raced past him in the third set to win 6-7 (5), 7-6 (12), 6-2 at the Citi Open on Friday night.
In the first-ever meeting between the players, Kyrgios allowed the first set to slip away with some mental lapses, then frustrated Tiafoe during the lengthy second-set tiebreak, which concluded with the Maryland native slamming his racket onto the court and kicking it.
“Frances put himself in every position to win the match. You know, in those moments I wasn’t really thinking too much. I was just trying to stay in the match and I survived,” Kyrgios said. “Then, you know, I felt like physically I was really fresh in the third set and served well.”
The hard-court U.S. Open tuneup in Washington is the first tournament for Kyrgios since he lost in four sets to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. The mercurial Australian improved his match record this year to 21-7 and advanced to his fifth semifinal, where he will face Mikael Ymer, a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 winner over Sebastian Korda.
Kyrgios won his most recent ATP title at Washington in 2019.
Because of weather delays, top-seeded Andrey Rublev played two matches on Friday, winning them both. He rallied in a second-set tiebreak to beat Maxime Cressy 6-4, 7-6 (8) in the afternoon and then dispatched American wild card J.J. Wolf 6-2, 6-3 in the evening to reach the semifinals.
“It’s part of the sport. I think that’s the fun thing about it, that you don’t know what to expect,” Rublev said. “Suddenly you will have two matches in one day.”
Kyrgios also had to conclude his round-of-16 match on Friday afternoon but needed only 14 minutes to close out his 7-6 (1), 6-2 victory over Reilly Opelka.
“Playing Reilly this morning in the heat was not ideal. Came out fast and strong, got it done. Then I was able to just get some rest and eventually just pull through,” Kyrgios said. “An amazing match with Frances. I knew it was going to be crazy. I’m just glad that today’s over and I can get some rest.”
Fourth-seeded veteran Victoria Azarenka struggled in her second match of the day, falling 6-1, 6-3 to 95th-ranked Xiyu Wang. Azarenka endured an 80-minute first set to beat Tereza Martincova 7-6 (7), 6-2 earlier Friday.
World No. 88 Daria Saville of Australia also advanced to the semifinals, defeating Rebecca Marino 6-1, 7-5. Sixth-seeded Kaia Kanepi got past Anna Kalinskaya 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3 in a match that lasted 2 hours, 33 minutes.