Nick Kyrgios is Australia’s greatest showman but every hero needs a villain and on Thursday night that will be Daniil Medvedev.
It is a role the reigning US Open men’s champion is more than happy to take on, one in which he actually thrives and that could spell trouble for Kyrgios.
Even away from John Cain Arena — or Kyrgios Court — where he feels most comfortable, the Australian will be the main attraction at Rod Laver Arena, like he was two days ago against Brit Liam Broady.
Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live Coverage of ATP + WTA Tour Tournaments including Every Finals Match. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial >
It was an experience Broady will never forget and not necessarily for the right reasons either.
“I mean, everyone is telling me: ‘Oh you’ll really enjoy it. It’s going to be amazing’… but I thought it was absolutely awful,” he told reporters on Tuesday night.
“The atmosphere was incredible, but it was, it’s the first time I’ve ever walked onto a tennis court and been booed, which was, which for me was a crazy experience.
“You get sledged from the sides like you can’t believe that they don’t pick up on TV. So it was a very, very difficult atmosphere to try and handle.”
Kyrgios, on the other hand, feeds off the energy.
After all, he pulled out of the Olympics because he said playing without spectators “doesn’t feel right.”
Broady called it one of Kyrgios’ “biggest weapons” — the ability to get the crowd “behind him”.
“I think that’s very rare, especially in the sport of tennis,” the Brit added.
“Now people don’t really interact with the crowd like he does, and that’s one of his biggest strengths.”
It certainly unsettled Broady and Kyrgios knew that would be the case, knew it would give him an upperhand as he works his way back into the sport after so much time on the sidelines.
“Liam is a great player but his experience on that court in that situation, when the crowd is going nuts, he has never experienced that before,” Kyrgios said.
“Hence the reason why on breakpoints I’m trying to get the crowd up, get him to feel the pressure a little bit more.
“I think from the get-go, I know I’ve got the crowd in the palm of my hand.”
Medvedev though is very different to Broady, he has the experience and the boos that will be sent his way on Thursday night will be nothing new.
It was three years ago at the US Open where the Russian endured endless boos in his win against Feliciao López before delivering a brutal reality check to the crowd post-match.
“What I need to say again is that today I was losing 6-3, 2-0. I was painful in my abductor before the match,” Medvedev said. “I thought I’m not going to play… and you guys, being against me gave me so much energy to win. Thank you.”
Kyrgios does boast a 2-0 record against Medvedev but both those matches came in 2019, when the Russian was yet to break into the top ten.
It was a very different version of Kyrgios too, who was floating around the 30s at the time and is now ranked No.115 with little tennis behind him.
“Our last match was so long ago and we are both so different and a different momentum of our careers that it’s really tough to count it,” Medvedev said.
“As I say, win or lose, I don’t think these two matches gonna count into this one.”
As for his opinions of Kyrgios the entertainer, Medvedev was not exactly convincing in his appraisal.
“He’s definitely a character,” the Russian said.
“You know, I think probably like almost everybody in the world, there are some things I adore in what he does and some things I don’t like.
“I’m not gonna tell what exactly, but as you say, you know, he’s kind of going to extreme almost all the time he’s on court. That’s why people love to watch him. Even if they hate him, they love to watch him, and that’s his strengths.”
Whether that is enough to carry Kyrgios over the line and over the tournament’s raging favourite remains to be seen.