January 16, 2018 / 2:17 PM / 9 months ago

Nadal takes center stage ahead of Kyrgios clash

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal takes center stage on Rod Laver Arena for his Australian Open second round match against Leonardo Mayer on Wednesday but anyone looking for a wild atmosphere would be better off waiting for the last match on Hisense Arena.

Tennis - Australian Open - Rafael Nadal of Spain v Victor Estrella Burgos of Dominican Republic - Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia, January 15, 2018. Nadal signs autographs after winning the match. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The second Melbourne Park stadium court is a multi-purpose venue that also hosts cycling and netball but the more intimate arena has become a firm favorite of iconoclastic Nick Kyrgios, Australia’s best hope of a first home champion since 1976.

The volatile 17th seed had a quiet evening by his standards in his opening match on Monday, with just the one violation for unsportsmanlike behavior when he asked spectator, in no uncertain terms, to be quiet while he was serving.

His second round opponent, Serbian Viktor Troicki, has also had his moments, as his meltdown at Wimbledon two years ago amply illustrated, and a packed house can expect sparks to fly.

Kyrgios will expect much of the backing of the crowd, even if Melbourne’s Serbian community has been vocal in support of their compatriots in the past, and three-times Melbourne winner Mats Wilander thinks the Australian will be energized by it.

“It’s a different crowd at Rod Laver Arena,” he told Reuters. “They obviously root for him but they’re not as young and as wild, they’re more neutral.”

Rod Laver Arena is usually expected to host the cream of the ties and day three of the 2018 championship is no different, with Nadal’s clash with Mayer and Grigor Dimitrov’s meeting with American Mackenzie McDonald the highlights.

A rash of upsets depleted the bottom half of the women’s draw on Monday but second seed Caroline Wozniacki survived and will pursue her quest for a maiden grand slam title against Croatian Jana Fett.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina opens the day on the main showcourt against Katerina Siniakova with Nadal-Mayer the final match of the afternoon.

Top seed Nadal has beaten Argentine Mayer in all four of their previous meetings, including a four-set victory at Flushing Meadows last year on his way to his 16th grand slam title.

Another intriguing match-up pairs Denis Shapovalov with French 15th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a losing finalist at Melbourne Park a decade ago when the Canadian was eight.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by John O'Brien

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