Nick Kyrgios continued his hot form from the American hard courts to the red clay in Houston on Tuesday, defeating Mackenzie McDonald 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. The wild card Australian started strong at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship after reaching the quarterfinals in Indian Wells and the fourth round in Miami in the year’s first ATP Masters 1000 events. In what was his first clay appearance since Rome in 2019, Kyrgios took some time to find his footing, playing his unique brand of attacking and entertaining tennis.
“Clay is obviously not my preferred surface, but I just served really well and started playing more aggressive and just found another gear,” the Aussie said after the match. “I did slip and slide a little bit, but my game actually suits the clay quite well. It’s a great atmosphere out here and the crowd’s pretty involved, so I’m looking forward to continuing to progress through the event.”
A single early break determined the outcome of each set. After dropping serve in the fifth game of the match, Kyrgios battled through two tough service games and saved two break points early in the second to turn the match around. McDonald did not face a break point in the first set, but in sets two and three, he dropped serve twice on 11 break points.
Kyrgios’ ace count reflected the shift in match dynamics: he had 18 aces in the one-hour, 52-minute match, with 16 of them coming in the final two sets. Late in the match, as he became more comfortable, Kyrgios turned up the heat with a tweener lob, surprising his opponent and drawing an error at the net.
Tommy Paul, the seventh seed, will face him in the second round after the American advanced to the second round after retiring in the third set against Peter Gojowczyk. Before the German stopped the match, Paul was up 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 3-2.