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Tennis: Aussie teen Kyrgios shocks Stepanek in Paris

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

What Nick Kyrgios lacked in experience, giving up 16 years on his rival, the young Australian made up for in sheer grit Monday in ousting Czech veteran Radek Stepanek to reach the second round of the French Open.

With seven-time champion Rafael Nadal making his entrance on Centre Court there was only a gaggle of spectators taking heed of the action on Court 17 as Grand Slam debutant Kyrgios showed that last January's Australian Open junior crown was not a flash in the pan; more a prelude to greater things.

There was even a Lleyton Hewitt-esque touch about the way the 18-year-old world number 262 from Canberra pulled off a 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (13/11) victory having trailed 0-6 in the second set tie-break before coming back to post a fine win which sets up a meeting with Croatian 10th seed Marin Cilic, whose hitting partner he has been on occasion.

"It was obviously an unbelievable experience even walking out to be part of such a great tournament," said Kyrgios, whose role model is former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. "I want to thank Tennis Australia for that opportunity.

"My goal today was just to go out there and enjoy every moment and give my best effort from the first point to the last. It was obviously a great feeling finally winning that match point."

Until the spring, the 1m93 rising star had a ranking barely on the cusp of the top 500, but clearly this is a talent in the making.

"I guess Pat Cash was a pretty good role model. To this day, he's always sort of messaging me, supporting me, giving me advice. Yeah, he's obviously really helped me because I played junior Davis Cup and he was the coach."

Kyrgios, whose father is Greek while his mother hails from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, admitted to some pre-match nerves, yet explained that "I got out there and started playing some really good tennis so the nerves sort of sunk in a bit quicker, quicker than I thought."

On his recovery in the second set tie-breaker, the teen said he told himself: "I just have to win these two service points and stay composed and make him come up with something to win the set.

"He missed a couple of balls, and I just tried to stay as composed as possibe with my serve. I didn't know how to celebrate after I won that set."

Asked how he felt after slaying Stepanek, Kyrgios paused before saying: "It felt about ten times better than the championship point at junior Australian Open. I just looked at everyone that's been helping me over the last couple years. Yeah, it was an unbelievable feeling."

Now he faces Cilic, whom he describes as "obviously an unbelievable player. I'll focus on what I have to do the next couple days."

That will include making optimal use of a barrelling serve, of which Kyrgios admits: "It gets me out of trouble."

cw/dj

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130527/tennis-aussie-teen-kyrgios-shocks-stepanek-paris