MELBOURNE – “Devastated” Nick Kyrgios pulled out Australian Open on Monday – the day before he was due to play his first round singles match – due to a left knee injury that needs arthroscopic surgery.
Kyrgios, a 27-year-old Australian, was runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year in singles and teamed up with good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to win the men’s doubles championship at the 2022 Australian Open.
Kyrgios was considered the host nation’s strongest chance of winning the title at Melbourne Park this year; no male Australian has won a singles trophy there since 1976.
“Just bad timing. But such is life,” said a dejected Kyrgios, who occasionally lowered his head or covered his face with his hand during a press conference in Melbourne Park along with his physiotherapist Will Maher. “Injuries are part of the sport.”
Kyrgios announced his withdrawal on the first day of the first Grand Slam of the year.
“I’m just tired of everything. It’s obviously pretty brutal,” Kyrgios said of his decision to sit it out. “One of the most important tournaments in my career. It wasn’t easy at all.”
He was seeded 19th in Melbourne and was scheduled to face Roman Safiullin in the first round on Tuesday.
“I haven’t slept much in the last four or five nights. It just pulsated. … Every time I land on a serve or push off a serve, you can see a small bump on the side of my knee. This bump will eventually get bigger and bigger,” Kyrgios said. “There is pressure on my knee (which) obviously interferes with my movements. Yeah, the only real way to get rid of him is to open up and then just get rid of him.”
He joins a long list of outstanding players who are not in this Australian Open, from retired Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Ash Barty to pregnant Naomi Osaka, injured Carlos Alcaraz, Venus Williams and Marin Cilic.
Kyrgios is as mercurial a character as he is in tennis, known for alternating between sometimes brilliant and sometimes disinterested play, as well as mixing occasional outlandish outbursts during matches. He spoke candidly about dealing with mental health issues.
Kyrgios has also been charged with assault in connection with a pending trial in his home city of Canberra.
Of course, he attracts attention on and off the tennis court, which is why he is one of the athletes featured in the new Netflix Documentary Series Breakpoint which debuted last week.
The Australian Open was supposed to be Kyrgios’ official debut of the season after he withdrew from tuning in early January. He used an exhibition match against Djokovic on Friday in front of a packed house at the Rod Laver Arena to test his knee, but it didn’t help.
Maher said an MRI examination after Kyrgios felt discomfort in his knee revealed a cyst and a small tear in the lateral meniscus ligament. The coach said the issue was “not career threatening” and that Kyrgios would be able to return to competition in time for the hard court tournament in Indian Wells, California in March.
“Look, I have no doubt that I will return in full force and play the tennis that I played before this tournament. Yes, I’m clearly devastated. It’s like my home tournament. I have great memories here – apparently last year I won the doubles title and probably played the best tennis of my life. Going into this tournament as one of the favorites is cruel,” Kyrgios said.
“All I can do now,” he added, “is just look ahead, do what I need to do, and come back.”
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