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Australian Open: Devastated Nick Kyrgios' Grand Slam wait goes on

Nick Kyrgios said he was "devastated" when a knee injury forced him to pull out of the Australian Open on the eve of his first match - and he wasn't the only one.

One of the modern day men's game's most controversial characters tweaked his knee in an exhibition match against Novak Djokovic last Friday.

"Trust me, my heart is broken," blubbed the Australian No.1 and crowd favourite, a man who divides opinions more than any other current professional - which makes him a big-money, box-office draw and organisers will be as disappointed as the 27-year-old himself that he won't be playing.

But how does the absence of the No.19 seed in Melbourne affect his section of the draw and will it have any bearing on the rest of his year?

Big strides in 2022 had made Kyrgios a contender

What2023 Australian Open
WhereMelbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
WhenMonday 16th January - Sunday 29th January, 2023
How to watchEurosport, Discovery+ and bet365's Live Sports Streaming
OddsMen's singles: Novak Djokovic 8/11, Daniil Medvedev 9/2, Rafael Nadal 10/1, Stefanos Tsitsipas 14/1, Taylor Fritz 14/1, Jannik Sinner 16/1, Holger Rune 16/1

Kyrgios was set to go into the 2023 Australian Open a talked-up 16/1 shot when injury struck.

Few would have seen him being troubled by Russia's world No.98 Roman Safiullin in round one, and even the pitfalls beyond that would have seemed like a walk in the park to a man who has never been short of self-belief.

Next in line may well have been Richard Gasquet, 36 now and with his better days behind him - or at least that was what we thought until the French veteran triumphed in Auckland on Sunday.

Brilliant young Dane Holger Rune, seeded nine, would, had the draw mapped out as expected, been next up in round three with Andrey Rublev in the round of 16 and Djokovic in the quarters.

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A lot had to have happened before a mouthwatering Kyrgios-Djokovic quarter-final, a repeat of last July's Wimbledon final, would have unfolded and since the Australian had never actually gone beyond round four of his home Open since reaching the quarter-finals eight years ago, it was hardly a done deal.

Except, of course, that Kyrgios believed, especially after last year's run to the final at Wimbledon and the quarter-finals of the US Open, that he finally and deservedly belonged in the game's elite.

Could the knee injury hinder further Slam shots?

The worry for Kyrgios is that the knee injury, which had been troubling him for a couple of weeks before and prevented him from partaking in any meaningful warm-up events, proves problematic.

Kyrgios' physiotherapist Will Maher said a cyst needed to be removed surgically but that the procedure is a simple one.

As for a timeline, between them Maher and Kyrgios have tentatively pencilled in the Indian Wells Championship in California in March.

And then if all goes to plan, his next attempt at a first Grand Slam will come at Paris in the springtime at the French Open, a tournament he hasn't played at since 2017 because he's no fan of clay courts and has described the set-up there as the "worst".

He insists he'd rather stay at home but that his girlfriend wants to see Paris. It's an attitude that veers somewhere between wearisome and pathetic but be sure French Open organisers would love to have the Aussie publicity machine gracing their courts.

Grass is always greener for the Australian bad boy

Kyrgios' game is definitely suited better to grass and you would imagine he is eyeing up going one better at Wimbledon, where he is a 14/1 shot.

He reached the semis at both Stuttgart and Halle in the weeks before Wimbledon, where he wowed and appalled crowds in equal measure, seeing off Stefanos Tsitsipas in a bad-tempered affair, before taking advantage of Rafael Nadal's withdrawal to set up a final showdown with Djokovic, a step too far as it transpired.

Buoyed by his summer efforts he almost repeated the feat at the US Open, a tournament where he had won just four matches in eight previous visits. Last autumn, however, he numbered then world No.1 Daniil Medvedev among his scalps as he cruised into the last eight for the first time.

With a 9/1 quote for this year's US Open, clearly he is expected to be challenging once again.

If it was only ever talent alone that was a measure of whether or not Kyrgios was a contender for any of the sport's major prizes, then he should be talked up alongside Djokovic, Nadal and whoever else books into Paris, Wimbledon and New York.

But, of course, it's never that simple with this chronically complex and over-indulged character, who now has a knee operation to come through as well.

Whatever happens next with Kyrgios’ career, bank on it being entertaining.

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