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Kyrgios safely through as he sets up Australian Open blockbuster with Medvedev

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Nick Kyrgios has shown few ill effects from recently testing positive to COVID-19, comfortably advancing from the Australia Open first round to book a match-up with world number two Daniil Medvedev.

Kyrgios easily defeated British qualifier Liam Broady 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, in front of a raucous crowd on his beloved John Cain Arena, quelling any concerns over his fitness.

He withdrew from last week’s Sydney Tennis Classic after confirming he had returned a positive COVID-19 test, and he had not played a competitive match since September.

Kyrgios said he had doubts about whether he would be able to take the court after going through a period of isolation after learning he had COVID-19.

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“The first couple of days I was bedridden, sleeping 17 hours a day,” he said in his courtside interview.

“I was concerned I wasn’t going to be physically ready to play. I took it day by day, looked at the bright side and took pressure off.

In the absence of Novak Djokovic, Medvedev is now the men’s tournament favourite and he showed at last year’s US Open he has the ability to win a major.

Kyrgios said he was under no illusion about how difficult Thursday’s encounter would be against the Russian, who was runner-up at Melbourne Park almost 12 months ago.

“He’s an amazing player. I knew he was going to do some special things in this sport and he’s won a grand slam (tournament),” said Kyrgios, who is scheduled to play doubles with Thanasi Kokkinakis on Wednesday.

Kyrgios was joined in the second round by fellow Australian Alex de Minaur, who recovered from a slow start to beat Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti 3-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena.

Alex de Minaur fought back after losing the opening set against Lorenzo Musetti.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

“The most important thing was my attitude,” said de Minaur, who is Australia’s highest-ranked male player at 42.

“That was what won me the match today. I was positive throughout the whole match. I didn’t let anything get in my head, and I just kept on going.

“I was playing every point on its merit and eventually things started to go my way and I was able to take control.”

The 32nd seed will play Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak for a spot in the third round.

Among the other Australians on court on Tuesday night, Alexei Popyrin went down in five sets to Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Wildcard Alex Bolt also departed the tournament after failing to take a set off Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who won 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

An Australian female tennis players hits a backhand.
Storm Sanders was on top early against Aryna Sabalenka before losing in three sets.(Getty Images: Kelly Defina)

Another local wildcard, Storm Sanders, appeared on the cusp of a major upset in the women’s draw when she won the first set and held a break in the second against world number two Aryna Sabalenka.

But Sabalenka found her composure when it counted, winning 11 of the next 13 games to record a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2  victory in their first-round match on Rod Laver Arena.

Kyrgios entertains

Kyrgios’s absence from the ATP Tour is contributing to his current ranking of 115, a far cry from his career high of 13 in 2016.

His serve showed no signs of rust following his lay-off from playing duties, as he fired down 21 aces against Broady and conceded only one double fault.

He also landed 81 per cent of his first serves in the court and gave up only a single break point.

After the match, Kyrgios jokingly referred to the John Cain Arena crowd  as a “zoo” and they were entertained by the Canberran from the outset.

After breaking Broady in the opening game, Kyrgios served for a 2-0 lead when he audaciously flicked the ball between his legs to the Briton.

Broady scrambled to make his return but it went long, as the crowd roared in appreciation of Kyrgios’s brazen move.

An Australian male tennis players stands holding his racquet with his arms outstretched.
Kyrgios kept the John Cain Arena faithful entertained throughout his match.(Getty Images: Darrian Traynor)

The early break proved the difference in the first set, which Kyrgios wrapped up with an ace.

The second set played out to much the same script as the first, with Broady dropping his opening service game to give Kyrgios the advantage.

Kyrgios kept his nose in front and served for the set at 5-4, again completing the assignment with an ace.

Two breaks of Broady’s serve in the third set helped Kyrgios to victory in one hour and 54 minutes.

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