Nick Kyrgios will resume his rivalry with French nemesis Richard Gasquet in the third round at Roland Garros on the big stage where he feels most comfortable.
In a short, but checkered, grand slam history between the pair, Kyrgios has produced a record-breaking victory and a question-raising loss – both at Wimbledon.
The controversial 21-year-old was criticised last year for allegedly `tanking’ a game against Gasquet in his four-set fourth-round loss – a suggestion he angrily denied.
The year prior he saved an extraordinary nine match points in his coming-of-age tournament – where he would go on to stun Rafael Nadal before exiting in the quarter-finals.
History would suggest Friday’s third-round matchup will produce something memorable, and Kyrgios agrees that matches between he and Gasquet have delivered in the past.
“I think me and Richard have had some really memorable matches,” Kyrgios said.
“To be honest, some of my favourite matches I’ve played are against him.
“Every time we played at Wimbledon it’s been a pretty good showdown.
“We played a lot of times, and he’s a great guy. He’s always a guy that I feel comfortable around.
“He’s always been a guy that’s been nice to me, as well.
“I’m looking forward to it … he’s a tough competitor.
“I’m sure he’s comfortable playing out here in front of his home crowd.”
Gasquet represents Kyrgios’ biggest challenge to date – and the French ninth seed, who holds a two-nil advantage in their head-to-head on clay, will also have the support of a vocal home crowd.
“I think he’s just a lot more comfortable on it. It’s in his backyard here,” Kyrgios said.
“He’s played here a lot. He’s obviously trained here a lot, he feels comfortable on this surface.
“He’s comfortable with his game. We have played on all surfaces, and I think he’s a great player on all surfaces.
“I feel confident even though it’s probably one of his favourite surfaces.”
Having already avoided the dangerous trio of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka until at least the semi-finals, Kyrgios has seen the highest seed in his quarter of the draw, world No.2 Andy Murray, pushed to five sets in each of his fixtures this week.
But while Murray has struggled, Kyrgios has rumbled – taking just 70 minutes to roll through world No.123 Igor Sijsling on Wednesday.
“I just feel a lot more experienced at the grand slams,” Kyrgios said.
“I feel like I’m still young, but I have played a lot of grand slam matches now.
“I feel like a lot of the players know that I feel comfortable playing on the big stage.”
It was his second straight-sets victory but he said he felt better than in Sunday’s effort over Italian Marco Cecchinato.
“I’m really happy with the way I performed today,” Kyrgios said.
“I thought I found my form from the back of the court.
“Definitely on returns, I returned a lot better today than I did in the first round.”