TENNIS: Nick Kyrgios survived his painful first battle at the Brisbane International on Wednesday but entered the ranks of Australian Open seeds wrestling with injury concerns.
Kyrgios gamely finished his match and completed a tenacious 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 win over Australian No.2 Matt Ebden despite being restricted at times in his movement.
The Australian Davis Cup mainstay called the trainer to treat his left knee twice in the first set of his second-round win and again at the mandatory break between the first two sets at Pat Rafter Arena.
"I hurt it a couple of days ago. It was good enough to still play and play a tough competitor like Matt,'' Kyrgios said.
"I was a bit rusty in the first match of the year. The Aussie summer is the best bunch of tournaments of the year and I'm happy to just get through.''
Kyrgios, the third seed for the Brisbane singles, said he intended to play his second-round doubles match with Matt Reid later Wednesday, another stop on what is a long fitness road now to the business rounds of the Australian Open.
As the first set progressed, the strapping around Kyrgios's left knee grew more substantial and a source of concern for Brisbane organisers who had lost drawcards Rafael Nadal (knee), Andy Murray (hip), Garbine Muguruza (cramp) and Kei Nishikori (wrist) due to fitness worries.
The ATP tour's social media staff claimed it was a knee problem, with one physio on Twitter suggesting it would be either a meniscus issue or related to his lower hamstring.
Kyrgios's movement after serves become shorter and, evidently, creating greater discomfort and he often grimaced after pulling up from the last shot of a point.
Yet in the first game in the third set in which he gained the first service break of the match he dashed from one corner to the other to nail a forehand winner.
Tournament staff said he had been seen icing the injury late on Tuesday after his doubles match.
Ebden, ranked No.76, was able to expose on some points Kyrgios's apparent lack of acceleration, but the Canberra refused to go away and won the second set tiebreak with two forehand winners and a rolled forehand on his second set point.
When the West Australian gained his first two break points of the match in the first game of the third set, Kyrgios prevailed with a slice second serve and a beefy first serve.
Kyrgios's critics should give him some credit for finishing the match, the most recent singles outing since he was fined $12,840 and docked another $27,071 in prizemoney by the ATP for walking out of a match in China without providing a medical reason to staff.
Kyrgios had not had strapping applied to his leg in a doubles match he played the previous day, but the first hint of looming trouble was when he arrived for his match with tape in an "X'' behind his knee.
There will be criticism of Kyrgios that he has fitness problems at the start of the year, especially after last playing a tournament in mid-October.
He admitted he had played too much basketball in the pre-season before his second-round loss at the Australian Open last summer in five weary sets against Italian Andreas Seppi.
But Kyrgios, 22, said last month that he had heeded that lesson, having played much less basketball in this offseason before the 2018 campaign as he realised it wasn't good for his tennis physically.
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