Rusty Kyrgios overcomes ‘little known Frenchman’
The best way to describe Nick Kyrgios' return to tennis is that he looked like someone who hadn't played a competitive match for 344 days.
After showing all sorts of rust in the opening set - which included a miscued underarm serve - the Australian star eventually willed himself into the contest against little known Frenchman Alexandre Mueller.
The end result was an injury scare and a less than spectacular three-set victory 3-6 6-4 7-6 (4) - in the opening round of the Murray River Open.
Mueller, 24, certainly defied his world ranking of 207 by keeping his more decorated opponent in check in the opening stanza, taking 26 minutes to win the first set 6-3.
Eventually Kyrgios, who seemed almost bored at times on Court 3, got going on the back of his booming serve which was regularly in the 216kmph territory.
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He took four break points to gain the crucial advantage at 3-1 in the second set but rather than sprinting to the finish he spluttered around again.
After handing the break back, the 2015 Australian Open quarter-finalist was forced to break Mueller's serve for a second time to claim the set 6-4.
And as is the case with Kyrgios, there was still plenty of drama despite the lacklustre performance.
He started the match wearing a compression bandage on his left calf and called a medical time-out at the end of the second set to have treatment on his left knee.
The highlight of the third set came when Kyrgios needed something special in the tie-break, producing his fastest serve of the match with a second serve of 220kmph to win the opening point.
Kyrgios, 25, revealed in the lead-up to his return that he didn't pick up a racquet for five months during the COVID-19 pandemic as he settled into life in Canberra with family and friends.
After initially struggling to get motivated for a return - he hadn't played since February last year in Acapulco, Mexico - the world No. 47 recently stepped up his training and declared he felt mentally refreshed coming into the Australian Open.
Kyrgios will now play fellow Aussie Harry Bourcher who got a late call-up into the tournament and then defeated countryman Marc Polmans in the opening round.
There were plenty of other promising Australian results on Tuesday with Jordan Thompson fighting back after dropping the first set to defeat Italy's Gianluca Mager 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the Great Ocean Road Open.
Journeyman James Duckworth, 29, showed he had returned in fine style following shoulder surgery with an impressive 6-3 6-4 victory over Czech Tomas Machac.
At the other end of the spectrum teenager Dane Sweeny won his first ever ATP Tour main draw match.
The 19-year-old from the Gold Coast, who received a wildcard into the Great Ocean Road Open, seized his opportunity by defeating Korean Ji Sung Nam 7-6 7-5.
Alexei Popyrin kept his love affair with Melbourne Park alive - he's made the third-round of the Open the past two years - winning a hard-fought slog against Croatia's Borna Gojo 6-7 7-6 7-6.
Originally published as No sweat: Rusty Kyrgios overcomes 'little known Frenchman'