FILE - Australia's Nick Kyrgios reacts as he announces his withdrawal from the Australian Open with a knee injury at a press conference in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
MELBOURNE — A “devastated” Nick Kyrgios pulled out of the Australian Open on Monday — the day before he was scheduled to play his first-round singles match — because of an injured left knee that needs arthroscopic surgery.
Kyrgios, a 27-year-old from Australia, was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year in singles and teamed with good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to claim the men’s doubles championship at the 2022 Australian Open.
Kyrgios was considered the host country’s strongest chance to win a title at Melbourne Park this year; no man from Australia has won the singles trophy there since 1976.
“Just bad timing. But that’s life,” said a downcast Kyrgios, who occasionally lowered his head or covered his face with a hand during a news conference at Melbourne Park alongside his physical therapist, Will Maher. “Injury is a part of the sport.”
Kyrgios announced his withdrawal on Day 1 of action at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.
“I’m just exhausted from everything. Obviously pretty brutal,” Kyrgios said of the decision to sit out. “One of the most important tournaments of my career. Hasn’t been easy at all.”
He was seeded 19th in Melbourne and was supposed to face Roman Safiullin in the first round on Tuesday.
“Barely had a good night’s sleep the last four, five nights. It’s just been throbbing. … Every time I land on serve or push off my serve, you can see on the side of my knee there’s like a little lump. That lump will eventually just get bigger and bigger,” Kyrgios said. “There’s pressure on my knee (that) obviously hinders my movement. Yeah, the only real way to get rid of it is to open up and then just get rid of it.”
He joins a long list of prominent players who are not participating in this Australian Open, from the now-retired Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Ash Barty to the pregnant Naomi Osaka, to the injured Carlos Alcaraz, Venus Williams and Marin Cilic.
Kyrgios is as mercurial a character as there is in tennis, known for alternating sometimes-brilliant and sometimes-uninterested play, as well as mixing in the occasional outlandish outburst during matches. He has spoken frankly about dealing with mental health issues.
Kyrgios also has been facing a charge of assault in a pending court case in his hometown of Canberra.
He is nothing if not attention-grabbing on and off a tennis court, certainly, which is why he is one of the athletes featured in the new Netflix docuseries “Break Point” that made its debut last week.
The Australian Open was supposed to mark Kyrgios’ official season debut after he withdrew from tuneup play earlier in January. He used an exhibition match against Djokovic on Friday in front of a packed house at Rod Laver Arena to test the knee, but that did not go well.
Maher said that an MRI exam after Kyrgios felt discomfort in his knee revealed a cyst and a small tear in the lateral meniscus ligament. The trainer said the problem is “not career-threatening,” and that Kyrgios should be able to return to competition by the hard-court tournament at Indian Wells, California, in March.
“Look, I’m not doubting I will be back to my full strength and playing the tennis I was playing prior to this event. Yeah, I’m devastated obviously. It’s like my home tournament. I’ve had some great memories here — obviously last year, winning the title in doubles and playing the best tennis of my life, probably. Then going into this event as one of the favorites, it’s brutal,” Kyrgios said.
“All I can do now,” he added, “is just look forward, do what I need to do and come back.”
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