“We have seen it all, but that was insane.”
John Cain Arena played its part in the thrilling, 205-minute win.
Kyrgios’ favourite Melbourne Park stadium was about 50 per cent full, but the noise the raucous crowd produced willed the Canberran back into the match.
“I’m still kind of in awe about the atmosphere,” Kyrgios said.
“Definitely, the stadium definitely didn’t feel half full, that’s for sure. It felt – the atmosphere was insane.”
Humbert initially encouraged the noise but by the time Kyrgios broke his serve early in the deciding set, frustration had set in.
He crumbled in the fifth set. A pair of double faults in his final service game told the story.
Kyrgios, in contrast, thrived.
After turning the momentum of the match around when he saved two match points, the Australian played with more freedom and crunched winners when he needed them most.
The comeback was one Kyrgios may not have managed in previous years, as a part of the match out of his control – a suspect ‘let’ calling machine – bugged him.
The Australian had a pair of lengthy discussions with chair umpire Marijana Veljovic in the second and fifth set after consecutive serves that appeared to clear the cord were called back.
“It’s ruining the game. Will you turn (the ‘let’ calling machine) off?” Kyrgios asked Veljovic in the second set.
“I’m not playing until you turn it off.”
He said the same thing in the deciding set.
“I don’t know what you can do about it. Maybe they need to upgrade their technology,” Kyrgios added post match.
“The remote thing is whack.”
His concerns faded when he broke Humbert’s second service game. The break set up a 3-1 lead that he never relinquished.
Humbert saved one match point after his second consecutive double fault when trailing 3-5, but he couldn’t stop Kyrgios on serve a few minutes later.
He sent his first match point on serve wide and Humbert couldn’t manage a return.
Kyrgios fell to his knees as the ball drifted out, bringing back memories of his five-set win against Karen Khachanov in last year’s third round.
Kyrgios’ concentration briefly waned at the end of the first set – when three wayward drop shots gifted a break to Humbert – and at the conclusion of the third set, but his best tennis was sublime.
That was the level he brought to the end of the fourth set and the decider and Humbert could do little to stop the match from falling Kyrgios’ way.
“I feel like I played a little bit better today. I definitely had to play better. He’s a hell of an opponent. Top 30 in the world, you’re not going to be a walkover,” Kyrgios said.
“But, yeah, I’m happy with just winning, man. Like at this stage in my career, I feel old. I just want to have a glass of red wine, man, after a match like that.
“I’m playing better. I’m going to have to play better again against Thiem, that’s for sure, but I’m not thinking about it.”
Thiem won’t let Kyrgios get away with the lapses. The reigning US Open champion has taken his game to another level in the last 12 months.
“He’s an extremely good player. He’s definitely – I have actually seen him progress,” Kyrgios said.
“He’s a bit older than I am. I actually saw him in juniors and then I saw him struggle for a couple years … and then to see him get to the top of the game – it’s been actually pretty cool to see him develop and finally find what he needs to do to win matches.
“He trains like an absolute animal. He’s consistent every day. And I actually have a lot of respect for him. I think his style of tennis is not easy to play. He’s super physical.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.