January 24, 2020 / 7:51 AM / a month ago

Kyrgios braced for 'aggressive' Khachanov in third round

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 23, 2020. Australia's Nick Kyrgios in action during the match against France's Gilles Simon. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

(Reuters) - Local favourite Nick Kyrgios will look to keep his demons in check as he continues his pursuit of a maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open but the 24-year-old could face a tricky test in the third round on Saturday from Karen Khachanov.

The mercurial Australian, who has been put on probation by the ATP for his past behaviour, had a minor meltdown during a 6-2 6-4 4-6 7-5 second-round win over Gilles Simon and said he had steered clear of a “very dark place” during the clash.

Kyrgios’ ability to control his temper and focus on his game instead could be put to the test again when he plays Russian Khachanov, who won their only previous meeting at Cincinnati last year.

“He’s difficult to play against. He’s got a big serve, big forehand, looks to dictate... very aggressive player,” Kyrgios said of the 16th seed.

Top seed Rafa Nadal continues his quest for only a second Australian Open title and first since 2009 with a clash against Spanish compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, while Russia’s Daniil Medvedev meets Alexei Popyrin of Australia.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev, the 2018 ATP Finals champion, squares off against Spain’s Fernando Verdasco while Austria’s Dominic Thiem meets American Taylor Fritz.

Czech second seed Karolina Pliskova, who is yet to drop a set at Melbourne Park in two rounds, faces Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova while 2018 runner-up Simona Halep meets Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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