Kyrgios Slides Into First Clay Win Since 2019 In Houston | ATP Tour

Nick Kyrgios carried his red-hot form from the American hard courts onto the red clay in Houston with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Mackenzie McDonald on Tuesday. After reaching the quarter-finals in Indian Wells and the fourth round in Miami at this year’s first ATP Masters 1000 events, the wild card Aussie started strong at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship.

Playing his unique brand of attacking and entertaining tennis, Kyrgios took some time to find his footing in what was his first clay appearance since Rome in 2019.

“Clay is obviously not my preferred surface, but I just served really well and started playing more aggressive and just found another gear,” the Aussie said of his comeback win. “I did slip and slide a little bit, but my game actually suits the clay quite well. It’s a great atmosphere out here and the crowd’s pretty involved, so I’m looking forward to continuing to progress through the event.”

Each set was decided by a single, early break. After Kyrgios dropped serve in the fifth game of the match, he navigated two tough service games and saved a pair of break points early in the second before turning the match around. McDonald did not face a break point in the opening set, but dropped serve twice on 11 break points in sets two and three.

The change in match dynamics was also highlighted by the Kyrgios ace count: He recorded 18 aces in the one-hour, 52-minute contest, with 16 of those coming in the last two sets. As he grew comfortable late in the match, Kyrgios turned on the style with a tweener lob, surprising his opponent and drawing an error at net.

“[Mackenzie] is an amazing player, “Kyrgios added, referencing the American’s win over him in Washington in 2021 – their only previous ATP Head2Head meeting.” He’s a tricky one because he doesn’t make too many mistakes. “

He will face the seventh seed Tommy Paul in the second round, after the American advanced via a third-set retirement in his opener against Peter Gojowczyk. Paul led, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 3-2, before the German stopped the contest.

Two all-American matches opened play on the Houston stadium court prior to the Kyrgios win. In the day’s first match, wild card JJ Wolf scored a 6-4, 6-4 win over eighth seed Jenson Brooksby by breaking serve in the final game of each set. The 23-year-old Wolf was not only making his debut in Houston, but was playing his first tour-level match on clay. With the upset over the World No. 36 – who was playing in just his second tour-level match on clay – Wolf earned his first ATP Tour win against a fellow American.

Two-time Houston champion Steve Johnson also followed that with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Denis Kudla. The only multiple-time winner in the Houston field (2017-18), Johnson improves to 6-1 in tour-level opening rounds on the 2022 season. He dropped serve just once on four break points in the match, though it came at a crucial time as he served to stay in the second set. But after breaking for 3-2 in the decider, the American powered through the finish line with three love holds, setting up a second-round showdown with fourth seed John Isner.

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The Houston evening opener nearly saw defending champion Cristian Garin make an early exit, but the fifth seed battled back from a double break down in the third set to edge Jack Sock, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Trailing 1-4 in the decider, the Chilean won four straight games to get back in the match.

From 4-all, three love holds left Garin ahead 6-5, and he managed his third break of the set to seal the victory. The World No. 29 was effective on his first serve throughout, winning 79 per cent (38/48) of those points in the contest, but struggled his second delivery with six double faults.

After snapping his five-match losing streak, Garin will next face Australia’s Jordan Thompson, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Canada’s Steven Diaz earlier on Tuesday.

Frances Tiafoe wrapped up the day’s play with a 6-4, 6-4 win over countryman Marcos Giron. In a frantic finish, three consecutive breaks of serve from 3-3 in the second set gave Tiafoe a chance to serve out the victory.

The sixth-seeded American battled through a three-deuce game to close it out, saving a break point before converting to his third match point. Pablo Cuevas awaits in the second round, after Uruguayan’s 7-6 (7), 6-3 win over Aussie Max Purcell.

All the action from the Houston ATP 250 event can be seen on ESPN3 in the US

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