Dogged Spaniard David Ferrer is happy to play the spoiler’s role but Nick Kyrgios is backing Lleyton Hewitt to spring an Australian Open boilover on Thursday night to once again fend off retirement.
Contesting his 20th and final Australian Open, Hewitt takes on the world No.8 under lights at Rod Laver Arena from 7pm AEST.
The 34-year-old gives himself “a fighter’s chance” in the second-round showstopper against the former French Open finalist.
So too does Kyrgios, who reveres his new Davis Cup captain and mentor and says the passion he brings to the court is unrivalled in tennis.
“His celebration said it all last night,” Kyrgios said after Hewitt fell to the court on his back after taking out fellow Australian James Duckworth in the first round.
“And that’s what he gives every single match. He gives it his all, his absolute all. He’s unbelievable.
“He’s the best competition in the world and he’s still going.
“He’s more than capable of having a great two weeks here. He can go far.”
All three of Hewitt’s meetings with Ferrer have come at slams and all three have been tight, with the Spaniard taking the last two, in four sets at the 2012 US Open, and in a five-set classic at Roland Garros in 2008.
Both baseline warriors expect another torrid encounter.
“I’ve played against Lleyton a few times. He was – and is – one of the best players in the world,” Ferrer said.
“He has really good talent and he’s an amazing player.
“It’s going to be his last tournament and he’s a mirror for me. I remember when I was younger, my game was similar.
“It’s not like he was my idol, because I don’t have an idol, but it’s similar to idol.
“I hope it’s a very good day for me and for him, but hopefully it’s going to be his last match.”
Hewitt’s playing career, though, will continue on past Thursday night’s meeting whatever the outcome after he progressed in the doubles with partner Sam Groth.
Hewitt and Groth won their opener 4-6 2-1 on Wednesday when Serbian duo Dusan Lajovic and Viktor Troicki were forced to withdraw after Lajovic rolled his left ankle.
Groth and Australian No.1 Bernard Tomic also play for third-round singles spots on Thursday night.
Tomic, the 16th seed, takes on Italian Simone Bolleli in the feature night match at Margaret Court Arena.
Groth faces second seed Andy Murray.
Kyrgios has yet to drop a set after disposing of Uruguayan claycourt specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-4 7-5 7-6 (7-2) on Wednesday night.
Queenslander John Millman is also is action on Thursday when he takes on the experienced Gilles Muller in his second round clash on Court Three.
Kyrgios’ Hopman Cup-winning partner Daria Gavrilova is also through the women’s third round after recording a stunning upset on Wednesday night over dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Wednesday night.