He may have been the star of the show but Nick Kyrgios was the first to salute an outstanding group of his compatriots as Wimbledon tipped its hat to four Australian winners in the space of a couple of glorious hours.
Following big victories for Jordan Thompson, James Duckworth and Ajla Tomljanovic on Wednesday, Kyrgios couldn’t help smiling: “We’ve got so much depth, I feel when I retire, I’m leaving tennis in good hands!
“Definitely [a special afternoon]. Led by Ash Barty, I strongly believe we’ve got such good depth in Australian tennis right now.”
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If Kyrgios’s victory over Ugo Humbert was sparkling, it didn’t outshine the remarkable effort of Thompson, who outstayed Norway’s rising star Casper Ruud in another five-set classic, prevailing 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 2-6 6-2 in just over four hours.
‘Thommo’ was joined in the second round by his fellow Sydneysider Duckworth, who made it past the first round for the first time in six years with his emphatic 6-4 6-4 6-1 victory over Moldovan Radu Albot.
Tomljanovic, the Australian No.2, also joined the party, overcoming a slip and a fall on match point against Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen before getting to her feet and soon finishing off a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) win which sees her join world No.1 Barty in the second round.
Those outside court success came alongside a few disappointments, particularly for the ever-patient Chris O’Connell, who turned out for a third day of his seemingly endless rain-interrupted marathon with Gael Monfils before going down 6-4 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 4-6.
That he’d taken the 13th seed right down to the wire, though, was a considerable performance.
Thompson had been in line for a second round tie against his doubles partner Alexei Popyrin, but instead he’ll be meeting a rejuvenated Kei Nishikori, who had a bit too much nous for the Sydney youngster, winning 6-4 6-4 6-4.
Two other Australian women were casualties, too, with Shellharbour qualifier Ellen Perez soundly beaten 6-2 6-2 by Clara Burel, the French former world junior No.1 who’d already ended Queenslander Storm Sanders’ hopes in the qualifiers.
Perth’s lucky loser Astra Sharma, meanwhile, was left dejected, saying she’d “choked” when throwing away two winning positions against Czech Kristyna Pliskova before losing 3-6 6-4 6-4.
Yet Kyrgios’s enthusiasm for the performances was infectious.
“Ducks [Duckworth], Thommo … that’s Thommo’s first match he’s won at Wimbledon. It’s incredible to see such success. Marc Polmans is winning rounds. It’s sick,” she said.
“And Bolty [Alex Bolt, who’d won on Tuesday] … unbelievable performance … Yeah, Aussie tennis is in good hands at the moment, I think.”
Duckworth looked in great form as he broke Albot six times in their one-sided encounter, but Thompson’s effort took pride of place
A man good enough on grass to have beaten Andy Murray before, the moustachioed Thompson had strangely never got past the first round in four attempts but the 30-year-old’s experience helped him repel the challenge of Ruud, one of the tour’s brightest young risers.
Thompson admitted he had been frustrated with the slow pace of the courts but talked himself into preparing for a one-set shootout after the Norwegian had come back from two sets all.
“He’s a great player but he hasn’t had a lot of grass court matches,” Thompson said.
“I re-set mentally and I was very proud of myself.”
Duckworth set himself up for a tough second round with former semi-finalist Sam Querrey after he’d broken Albot’s serve six times while Tomljanovic will again have to up her game a notch when she faces France’s Alize Cornet.