Grudge match: Kyrgios beats Khachanov in 5-set epic to set up clash with nemesis Nadal at Australian Open
Australia’s Kyrgios, seeded 23rd, overcame number 16 seed Khachanov in a five-set epic, 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (6-8) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8), at Melbourne Arena to secure passage to the fourth round.
There he will meet Spanish top seed Nadal, a man with whom he has frequently clashed in the pair’s previous meetings.
Nadal had booked his spot in the fourth round earlier on Saturday by easing to a 6-1 6-2 6-4 win over fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.
𝕋ℝ𝕌𝔼 🇦🇺 𝔾ℝ𝕀𝕋@NickKyrgios is through to the #AusOpen fourth round for the third time, def. Karen Khachanov 6-2 7-6(5) 6-7(6) 6-7(7) 7-6(8), where he will meet World No.1 Rafael Nadal.#AO2020pic.twitter.com/f9CWmdAEwG— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2020
Things were far tougher for Kyrgios, 24, as he and Khachanov played out a late-night classic under the Melbourne floodlights.
The Australian took the first set with a double break of serve, despite moving awkwardly at stages and being forced to leave court for a medical timeout.
Kyrgios then won a tight second set on a tiebreak, as the match continued to be punctuated with some typically audacious shots and crowd-pleasing antics from the Australian.
The third set went with serve before Krygios broke the 6ft 6in Russian in the fifth game, seemingly setting himself up for victory in straight sets.
However, the 23-year-old Russian battled back to break in game eight and level the set, leading to a tense tie-break which Khachanov edged 8-6 to keep himself in the match and the tournament.
Khachanov required treatment to his shoulder early in the fourth set, but continued to serve well to keep himself in contention as the fired-up pair took the match to another tie-break nailbiter.
Khachanov saved match point in the tie-break before edging it 9-7 as a late-night epic unfolded at Melbourne Arena.
The Russian needed further treatment on his shoulder ahead of the decisive fifth set, but showed little sign of it bothering him as he appeared to gain the momentum, despite Kyrgios continuing to produce some jaw-dropping half-volleys.
There were lighter moments amid the titanic tussle as both players joined in using towels to wipe bird droppings from the court.
Again the pair could not be separated as they moved to 6-6 in the fifth, setting up a winner-takes-all 10-point super tie-break.
Kyrgios held his nerve to prevail 10-8, and will now have to steel himself for an encounter with his Spanish nemesis Nadal.
The pair have met seven times previously, with 33-year-old Nadal having the edge with four wins. Both of their Grand Slam meetings thus far have come at Wimbledon, where Kyrgios stunned the Spaniard in the fourth round in 2014, before Nadal gained revenge last year by winning their third-round meeting.
There is no love lost between the two, with 19-time Grand Slam winner Nadal accusing the Aussie hothead of lacking respect, while Kyrgios has described the Spaniard as “super salty.”
Earlier at this year’s tournament in Melbourne Kyrgios even mocked Nadal by mimicking his serving action during his second-round match against Frenchman Gilles Simon.
After his win on Saturday, Nadal had admitted he would prefer not to have to face Kyrgios, but that “if it goes that way then I will be ready."
After his win against Khachanov, an exhausted Kyrgios described the victory as "one of the best of my career."
“Man it was crazy. That was insane. I've got no words," he told the crowd.
"My legs feel about 40 kilos each. I was losing it mentally after losing the third and fourth, after having match points. I thought I was going to lose, but you guys helped me over the line.
“Karel is an absolute warrior. He's going to do some special things for sure. This is just the beginning for him.
“That's one of the best wins of my career."Also on rt.com WATCH: Fans brawl in stands at Australian Open before home hero Kyrgios takes on Russia’s Khachanov
As for Nadal, Kyrgios played down any potential fireworks, saying: “He has a winning record against me. Whatever happens between us he's an amazing player.
"I'm not thinking about that right now. I'll give everything I have and hopefully that will be enough.”
The tennis world will now eagerly await the latest chapter of one of the sport’s most antagonistic rivalries when Nadal and Kyrgios face off on Monday.