Just In The Nick Of Time
The third seed recovered from a set down and overcame pain in his left knee to oust his veteran countryman Matt Ebden 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-2 in his first match of the 2018 ATP World Tour season.
“I was a bit rusty in my first match of the year. I played a great doubles match yesterday with my great mate Matt Reid and that gave me that bit of confidence,” Kyrgios said. “I was just happy to get through today.”
It took Kyrgios about a set and a half to find his world-class level. The 22-year-old hadn't played a match since 10 October, at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. Kyrgios missed the remainder of the 2017 season because of a recurring hip injury.
“It took me a while to get used to playing a match again. I've been training here for so long and training on centre court, it kind of didn't feel like a match to start. The longer the match went, the better I played, the looser I got. I knew it was going to be tough day today. He's a tough competitor.”
It looked as if injuries might derail his 2018 start as well. At 4-5 in the first set, Kyrgios received a medical timeout for sharp pain in his left knee. Two games later, the trainer again treated Kyrgios during the changeover.
But the World No. 21 gradually played more freely, and Ebden's game dipped just slightly. The 30-year-old had hit almost 90 per cent of his first serves in the opening set, but that dropped to just above60 per cent in the second, and Kyrgios was able to even the match in the tie-break.
Kyrgios pulled away in the third, breaking Ebden for the first time at 1-1 and again in the seventh game. The third seed, who is making his Brisbane debut, will meet Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov in the quarter-finals. Dolgopolov routed Argentina's Horacio Zeballos 6-1, 6-2 in only 64 minutes.
“I played him (Dolgopolov) last year in Cincinnati," said Kyrgios. "I beat him there but it was a tough match. I remember it was very hot and similar conditions. He's been on tour for a long time now. He definitely knows his way around the tennis court. So I know it's going to be tough.”