Nick Kyrgios says he knew he needed to pull out of the Australian Open after practising against his mate, doubles partner and fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Just before 4pm on the first day of the tournament on Monday, the news that Kyrgios was calling an unexpected press conference echoed across the media building at Melbourne Park.
Journalists rushed to the theatre and watched in anticipation as Kyrgios and his physio Will Maher walked quietly into the room.
In disappointing news for Aussie tennis fans, the 27-year-old pulled out of the tournament, citing a knee injury.
“I got off the court yesterday and was dealing with it and we were going to make a call then,” Kyrgios explained of the timing.
“I was, like, you know, I’ve worked so hard, put myself in the position to be — you know, I was ranked outside 100 a year ago. Now I’ve had the year I had last year and back inside the 20, being seeded at a Grand Slam, feeling as good as I’m feeling and playing the way I’m feeling.
“I wanted to give myself a chance.”
That dream was crushed on Monday, one day before Kyrgios was scheduled to play Roman Safiullin in round one of the tournament.
“I had some hope but after today I hit with Thanasi and someone who is playing the way he is playing, he pushed me around the court a little bit and that was more of a realistic type hit of the intensity that was coming,” he said.
“So it was easier to make the call today.”
Just days before the bombshell announcement, Kyrgios defeated Novak Djokovic in a charity warm-up match at Rod Laver Arena on Friday.Maher said the match was used to gauge whether Kyrgios could compete at the highest level.
“He didn’t pull up great and he still tried to give himself every chance in the following days to have subsequent training,” the physiotherapist said.
“But it was clear that with each passing session that he was getting sorer and sorer.”
Maher said while it was “impossible” to say exactly when the injury happened, it had only become “a real problem” in the last fortnight.
Kyrgios said he had “barely had a good night’s sleep the last four, five nights” because of constant throbbing in his knee.
Technically speaking, Maher said Kyrgios had a parameniscal cyst growing in his left meniscus, which was the result of a small tear in his lateral meniscus.
Mr Maher said the injury was not career threatening but pulling out of the tournament was a “sensible” decision.
Last week, Kyrgios had a procedure to try and drain the cyst and had hoped that had been enough to allow him to compete in the Australian Open.
Kyrgios will now head back to Canberra to have a procedure to remove the cyst and expects to be back on the court for Indian Wells in March.
“The prognosis is good and he’ll be fine. We just go back to work and make sure everything is fine for him and we go again,” Maher said.
Kyrgios said he was “extremely devastated” and that it was “brutal” to have to pull out of his home tournament.
“I’ve had some great memories here. Obviously last year winning the title in doubles and playing the best tennis of my life probably,” he said.
“Then going into this event as one of the favourites, it’s brutal. All I can do now is just look forward, do what I need to do and come back.”