MELBOURNE, Australia -- The scuffle that broke out in the crowd before the match began and the long lines of fans trailing back out of Melbourne Arena could mean only one thing.
This was the Nick Kyrgios show, and boy, was it good value.
And it had everything: a four-hour-plus Kyrgios monologue, an underarm serve, countless tweeners, a mini-row with the umpire and some scintillating, breathtaking, absorbing tennis, all ending in a deciding match tiebreak, won by Kyrgios, who stayed strong mentally when on another occasion he might have lost it altogether.
"Man, that was crazy," an exhausted Kyrgios said after his four-hour, 26-minute 6-2, 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 7-6 (8) victory over Karen Khachanov of Russia, who fulfilled the role of villain inside Melbourne Arena, an arena seemingly made for the Australian, where Grounds Pass holders can get in to watch their heroes.
It was the longest match of Kyrgios' career, a testament to his often-questioned fitness and his willpower, the packed, raucous crowd somehow pulling him home when his body and mind must have been crying out to stop.
"I was losing it mentally a little bit," Kyrgios said. "Obviously it was hard to lose the third and fourth sets having had match points. You guys just willed me over the line. I thought I was going to lose, honestly. It's insane. It's one of the best wins of my career."
After the drama of the previous night, when Roger Federer had won the last six points to deny another Australian, John Millman, in a final-set match tiebreak, Kyrgios looked like he was going to get the job done with the minimum of fuss when he led by two sets and 4-2 in the third.
We should have known better.
Kyrgios outlasts Khachanov in five sets
Nick Kyrgios edges Karen Khachanov to advance and face Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open's fourth round.
Kyrgios had shaken off a sore glute muscle at 5-2 in the first set to take control. "I felt something sharp," he told the physio. But Khachanov, the No. 16 seed, had other ideas. He broke back for 4-3 and took the set to a tiebreak before saving a match point and going on to take it 8-6.
On many other occasions, Kyrgios might have lost it completely, but the 24-year-old has been playing with a higher purpose this fortnight, the horrific bushfires across Australia seemingly giving him a new perspective on his tennis.
Still, there were plenty of classic Kyrgios moments.
Having been warned for hitting a ball up into the stands in the third set, the fourth set saw Kyrgios begin to rant toward his box -- "get the f--- up" -- and to the umpire, berating him when he received a time violation on serve when he had been trying to wipe blood off his hands after a fall.
"There's blood on the towel, I told the ball boy not to touch it," Kyrgios told umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. "Why are you stupid?" Then, when he showed the umpire the towel, he said: "Is that good enough for you? Sitting down at the change of ends, he added: "Don't look at me, do your job. You think I'm going to play that slow, or what?"
But where often Kyrgios would have fallen apart, this time he stayed mentally strong, and even as Khachanov won the fourth set on the tiebreak, saving a second match point, he held it together.
Kyrgios lashes out at umpire over injured hand
Umpire Renaud Lichtenstein and Nick Kyrgios engage in a spat over Krygios receiving a time violation for wiping blood off of his hand.
It hardly seemed possible, but the drama ramped up further in the fifth set, with the crowd joining in with the music played on the loud speakers at every change of ends and both men sending down massive serves.
Kyrgios hit 33 aces in all, eight in the final set, while Khachanov hit five of his 21 and only nine points went against serve. Kyrgios, looking for energy, shouted to his box. "Great chat, unbelievable, great chat, fellas, great chat."
The underarm serve came out at 2-1, 40-0 in the final set, though Khachanov won the point. As Kyrgios tired, the trick shots came out, tweeners and between-the-legs lobs.
In the tiebreak, Kyrgios led 3-0 before Khachanov forged ahead 8-7, with two serves to come. It was then that the Australian ripped a backhand down the line to send the crowd wild. Even the controller of the music got carried away, blasting out a tune again at 8-8 as if it was more like a Davis Cup tie.
Khachanov missed a backhand to give Kyrgios a third match point, and this time, with his limbs screaming, he took his chance when the Russian mishit a backhand wide, Kyrgios falling onto his back with the kind of celebration usually reserved for those who win the title.
Like Federer the previous night-turned-morning, Kyrgios was so exhausted he could barely speak.
"My legs feel like 40 kilos each," he said. "Man, this was an epic match. I don't really know what's going on."
The inspiration of playing for others, it seems, may have been the catalyst for Kyrgios to maintain his focus throughout, but it may also have been the thought of playing Rafael Nadal in the next round.
Nadal admitted he had watched the Federer-Millman match while having room service, and he no doubt enjoyed the match going the distance.
And though their last-16 clash will be played on Rod Laver Arena and not in the caldron of the Melbourne Arena that seems to inspire him so much, when it comes to Kyrgios 2020, anything is possible.
One thing is for sure: The man knows how to put on a show.