The form guide for Aussies at 2019 Australian Open.
The form guide for Aussies at 2019 Australian Open.Source: FOX SPORTS

A plethora of local hopes will compete at the 2018 Australian Open.

Fox Sports tennis analyst Adam Peacock breaks down all the Aussies playing at Melbourne Park and their chances in what looms as a thrilling first round of action on Monday and Tuesday.

FULL AUS OPEN DRAW: AUSSIE MEN HANDED BRUTAL OPENERS

‘THEY’RE AT LOGGERHEADS’: UGLY TENNIS FALLOUT REVEALED

‘THE PAIN IS TOO MUCH’: MURRAY DROPS RETIREMENT BOMBSHELL

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MATT EBDEN

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First round opponent: Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger)

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Matty has very high expectations of himself. He’d be expecting to win this one and I expect him to win as well. Sometimes he gets himself a little bit tied up in matches. Hopefully that doesn’t happen and he moves through to the second round.

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Verdict: He’s had a really good 12 months and should be looking to continue that form here.

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BERNARD TOMIC

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First round opponent: 6-Marin Cilic (Cro)

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On paper it looks a stinker for Bernie. But, conversely, Marin wouldn’t be over the moon about this. I think the penny has dropped to a certain extent with Bernie. He needs to find a way to fight when it’s not going his way. The effort tap gets turned off when it all gets too much so I’d like to see some fight from Bernie.

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Verdict: Looking at this last six months and how he’s prepared for this I’ve got a feeling he might be OK and push Marin a long, long way.

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JORDAN THOMPSON

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First round opponent: Feliciano Lopez (Spa)

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It’s a tough draw against the veteran Spaniard who will try to keep the ball low. A middle of the day match where the court has more life will help Jordan.

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Verdict: He’s only won three Grand Slam matches in his life and none in 2018. That needs to change but I like his chances, even though he’ll be the underdog.

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JASON KUBLER

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First round opponent: Thomas Fabbiano (Ita)

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Kubler got a wildcard. He was just outside the cut off after a great 12 months. A few of these guys who don’t get the headlines and don’t get the notoriety in Australian tennis actually had a really productive 12 months — and Kubler fits that category.

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Verdict: I just want him to do well and I think he gets the draw to do it.

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JAMES DUCKWORTH

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First round opponent: 2-Rafael Nadal (Spa)

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He’s the unluckiest man in Australian tennis, James Duckworth, because he has had stinker draw after stinker draw after stinker draw and then he gets this one.

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Verdict: I don’t know how he gets past Rafa.

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ALEXEI POPYRIN

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First round opponent: Mischa Zverev (Ger)

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This is a very good test against a hardened veteran, who is at the tailend of his career.

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Verdict: Alexei gets his chance here if Mischa is just hanging on and enjoying the experience. But if he rocks up and plays his best serve and volley tennis then Alexei is going to find it very, very difficult.

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MARC POLMANS

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First round opponent: Denis Kudla (Ned)

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Another guy behind the scenes working his absolute backside off. Kudla is a seasoned professional and a class above Polmans — just — at this stage of their respective careers.

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Verdict: A home crowd and lots of support could help Marc cause an upset.

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ALEX BOLT

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First round opponent: Jack Sock (US)

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If Jack Sock is healthy this is a really tough proposition as he’s got one of the best forehands on the tour and a big game on his day. But it might not be his day because he’s had a hip worry.

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Verdict: He’s up against it, no question. But he’ll be put on a noisy court and I’ve seen Jack get frustrated in those circumstances before. Maybe it will unsettle him and play a part.

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THANASI KOKKINAKIS (Qualifier)

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First round opponent: TBC

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It’s quite amazing Thanasi hasn’t won a Grand Slam match since 2015 when he beat Bernard Tomic in an epic at the French Open. Since then he has not been sighted in a meaningful way at a Grand Slam. Here’s his opportunity.

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Verdict: If he’s fit — mentally and physically — he will give it a good shake, as he always does.

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DEMON WINS ALL-AUSSIE QUARTERFINAL TO ADVANCE IN SYDNEY

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THE SERENA SITUATION: IS IT THE CHAMPION AGAINST THE REST?

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THE PROS AND CONS BEHIND THE CONTROVERSIAL NEW RULE AT AUS OPEN

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WOMEN’S DRAW

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15- ASH BARTY

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First round opponent: Luksika Kunkhum (Tha)

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Ash is our best local hope of making the quarter-finals at the Australian Open — men’s or women’s. She had a remarkable 2018 and after beating Simona Halep in Sydney she knows she can beat the big guns. Ash also beat Angelique Kerber late last year.

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Verdict: She’ll get off to a winning start here. Fingers crossed we’re still talking about her late in the second week.

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DARIA GAVRILOVA

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First round opponent: Tamara Zidanksek (Slo)

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I’m a little bit disappointed Dasha hasn’t been able to take that next step. She’s been in the 20s and 30s for a while now. But she loves playing at the Australian Open and will want to impress.

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Verdict: She’s against an opponent she should beat. But we know on occasions she’s beaten herself. We’ll have to wait and see what we get.

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AJLA TOMLJANOVIC

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First round opponent: Johanna Konta (Gbr)

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This is a tough draw. Now that Ajla’s injury woes are behind her she’s actually playing some good tennis, but Jo Konta is a good player and loves these conditions.

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Verdict: On her day, Ajla has a big and powerful game and can trouble any opponent. I’d still favour Jo, but only just.

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SAM STOSUR

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First round opponent: Dayana Yastremska (Ukr)

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Sam has always had issues performing at the Australian Open, but I really admire that she’s still playing and still enjoying playing. For me, anything after the 2011 US Open victory in her career is a bonus.

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Verdict: We can’t be too disappointed if she rocks up and has a loss when she’s meant to win.

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PRISCILLA HORN

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First round opponent: Qualifier

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It’s a big moment and a big opportunity for the 20-year-old, who’s ranked in the 160s and has never won a Grand Slam match.

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Verdict: Probably could’t get a better opportunity than a qualifier first up.

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KIM BIRRELL

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First round opponent: Qualifier

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She would be feeling good after beating Daria Kasatkina — that’s a huge result in beating the world No. 10.

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Verdict: There’s every reason to suggest she can win her first Grand Slam match.

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DESTANEE AIAVA

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First round opponent: 17- Madison Keys (US)

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I feel sorry for the ball because it is going to be hit very, very hard. Destanee is only 18 and still developing, but her potential is definitely there, as Simona Halep found out in the first round last year.

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Verdict: It’s hard not to like her game, but unfortunately it’s hard not to like her draw. It’s a really difficult one first up.

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ELLEN PEREZ

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First round opponent: Wang Yafan (Chn)

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This will be Ellen’s first Australian Open, but she has some experience on her side, after going through the US College system. Hopefully the occasion doesn’t affect her too much.

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Verdict: She’s against an opponent who’s really more of a doubles specialist, even though she ranked No. 64 in the world. It’s a big opportunity.

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ZOE HIVES

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First round opponent: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (US)

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I don’t know a hell of a lot about Zoe, but I do know Tennis Australia doesn’t dish out wildcards for the sake of it these days. Her opponent hasn’t played a Grand Slam match in singles since her knee exploded at Wimbledon in 2017.

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Verdict: The American is a very talented player when fit. Zoe will be in a bit of trouble is Mattek-Sands is back to her best.

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OPINION

“,”foxsportsLink”:”https://www.foxsports.com.au/tennis/australian-open/opinion-nick-kyrgioss-australian-open-hand-isnt-as-bad-as-many-people-think/news-story/78fdd8bb024f005a1f9150c86e92bfc9″,”dynamicMetadata”:{“route”:”tennis/australian-open”,”link”:”https://www.foxsports.com.au/tennis/australian-open/opinion-nick-kyrgioss-australian-open-hand-isnt-as-bad-as-many-people-think/news-story/78fdd8bb024f005a1f9150c86e92bfc9″,”canonical”:”https://www.news.com.au/sport/tennis/opinion-nick-kyrgioss-australian-open-hand-isnt-as-bad-as-many-people-think/news-story/78fdd8bb024f005a1f9150c86e92bfc9″,”sectionCaption”:”Expert Opinion”},”subtitle”:”Opinion: Nick Kyrgios’s Australian Open hand isn’t as bad as many people think”,”title”:”Kyrgios con we shouldn’t fall for”,”seoHeadline”:”Australian Open 2019: Nick Kyrgios draw hides the truth”,”keywords”:[“Nick Kyrgios”,”Australian open”,”Milos Raonic”,”tough draw”,”draw gods”,”blockquote class”,”async src”,”tennis world”,”slam winner”,”lights shine”,”junk tennis”,”home soil”,”French journeyman”,”Slovak battler”,”lead-up event”,”off-pace shots”,”enigmatic Australian”,”lacklustre performance”,”Brisbane”,”Queensland”,”Australia”,”Australia and New Zealand”,”Oceania”,”Melbourne”,”Victoria”,”United States of America”,”Northern America”,”North America”,”America”,”Jeremy Chardy”,”Andy Murray”,”David Goffin”,”John Millman”,”Smooth Stan Smith”,”Richard Gasquet”,”Rafael Nadal”,”Jim Courier”,”Darren Cahill”,”Roger Federer”,”Novak Djokovic”,”Tomas Berdych”,”David Ferrer”,”Alexander Zverev”,”Marin Cilic”,”Lukas Lacko”,”Stan Wawrinka”],”thumbnailImageLink”:”https://cdn.newsapi.com.au/image/v1/903739205af5083393c882884aec1a8f?width=320&height=240″,”originalSource”:”news.com.au”,”byline”:”Paul Johnson”,”bylineNames”:[“Paul Johnson”],”paragraphs”:[{“contentType”:”HTML”,”html”:”

Some athletes like being on the big stage where the lights shine brightest.

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And love him or loathe him, Nick Kyrgios is one of those.

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The enigmatic Australian is an entertainer and he will be on a big arena when he takes on 17th seeded Canadian Milos Raonic in round one of the Australian Open.

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Should he get through that, and all goes to plan based on rankings he would then have old rival Stan Wawrinka, Korea’s Hyeon Chung and fourth seed, Alexander Zverev.

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For Kyrgios, it’s a tough draw but might be far from the horror suggested when the Australian Open draw was released on Thursday night. It’s actually a blessing in disguise.

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Wow- #AusOpen draw gods inflicted pain on Tomic and Kyrgios.

Tomic gets Marin Cilic in first round.

Kyrgios gets Milos Raonic in first round.#ouch

— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) January 10, 2019

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For Raonic — who lost in the opening round last year to Slovak battler Lukas Lacko — it’s a potential disaster.

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Those who look to discredit Kyrgios will point to his loss to French journeyman Jeremy Chardy in the second round in Brisbane this month and his lacklustre performance against Bernard Tomic at Kooyong as reasons why he is doomed against the big-serving Canadian, who made the 2016 Wimbledon final.

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But look a little deeper into the Tomic match and know it’s harder to play the 26-year-old than it seems.

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Tomic’s bizarre brand of tennis, which features off-pace shots mixed in with flat, slapped forehands is rarely easy for the best of them, let alone a player like Kyrgios, who thrives on a big game coming at him.

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In Melbourne he gets just that.

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Both Raonic and he are gunslingers. Big men with big forehands and even bigger serves. They both also have big talent — talent that has to a large degree gone unfulfilled.

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At one point Raonic was considered a favourite to join the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray atop the tennis world as a slam winner. It never happened.

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In 2017, many thought Kyrgios would be a chance to join that group at the US Open after he made the final of a lead-up event in Cincinatti. That didn’t happen either — compatriot John Millman beat him in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

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And while Millman is no slouch, Kyrgios — as is his wont at times — looked disinterested.

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But against Raonic, on home soil, he will be anything but, as he again takes on a genuine star. It’s a category of player he has always thrived against.

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While he may have been aloof against his countryman at Kooyong, slapping balls long as he searched for winners against what commentator Jim Courier once described as Tomic’s “junk tennis”, just days before in another exhibition against Nadal, the engaged, scintillating version of Kyrgios was in full flight as he took down the Spaniard in an exciting Fast4 exhibition 4-0 4-3.

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The stats back him up.

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Of the sport’s big dogs, he holds a winning record against Djokovic (2-0), is 3-3 with both Nadal and Zverev and only has a losing record against Federer (1-3).

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As for an endorsement of his skills against the best, look no further than Aussie coach Darren Cahill, who guided women’s star Simona Halep to the world No. 1 ranking and a French Open title last year.

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After toppling Nadal, Cahill had the following to say on SEN SA Breakfast: “For someone like Nick, anytime he gets onto the court and he’s playing someone like that (Nadal) you see him gain an extra leg.

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“It’s amazing how he does that. He just rises to the occasion and we got a good opportunity to see why he can be dangerous to so many players — and Nick can beat anyone on any given day.

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“On his day in the first round and second round, he’s going to be by far the most dangerous floater.”

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It is this Kyrgios that one hopes will turn up in Melbourne against a man he has a 3-3 career record against, with a 1-0 edge on hardcourts — the surface they’ll be stepping onto at Melbourne Park.

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For Kyrgios, he’s also on the record as saying he still believes he has the game to take down the biggest guns in tennis. Even after his Kooyong loss.

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“Definitely I struggled with a lot of things last year, my body was one and I was going through some tough times,” Kyrgios said.

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“I feel like I am in a good space mentally. Ranking, that stuff is temporary, I know I can go out there and trouble Nadal, Federer, Djokovic. I’m not worried about going out there and losing three and four to BT (Tomic).”

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As such, the supposed ‘horror’ draw should hold no fears for the Canberran and be one where he actually thrives rather than flounders. He’ll be hoping to emulate his Cincinatti run in 2017 when he beat David Goffin, Nadal and David Ferrer en route to the final.

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It was a similar story in 2016 in Marseille when Kyrgios beat Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic on the way to the title.

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Bring on the tough draw, it’s where Kyrgios can rise again.

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He may polarise opinion but Nick Kyrgios was all kinds of classy with his tribute to Andy Murray following the Scot’s bombshell announcement that retirement is looming.

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Murray’s tearful announcement on Friday that he’ll be forced to retire this year prompted a volley of tributes to the man, fond recollections of a historic career and encouragement to serve up a fitting farewell.

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Andy, I know you take me for a joker most of the time, but at least hear me out on this one old friend. You will always be someone that impacted the sport in so many different ways, I know this was never the way you wanted to go out, but hey it was a heck of a ride. You took me under your wing as soon as I got on tour, and to this day you have been someone I literally just look forward to seeing. You are one crazy tennis player, miles better than me, but I just want you to know that today isn’t only a sad day for you and your team, it’s a sad day for the sport and for everyone you’ve had an impact on. Which leaves me big fella.. these are a couple photos, that should make you smile and think, I was actually a little bit of a younger brother to you. Anyways, I just want you to know, and I’m sure you already do, everyone wants you to keep fighting and to keep being you. Goodluck at the Australian Open muzz, I’ll be behind you. #onelastdance 🙌🏽🙏🏽

A post shared by Kygs (@k1ngkyrg1os) on

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And Kyrgios’ words were especially touching after he took to Instagram to honour their friendship.

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“I know you take me for a joker most of the time, but at least hear me out on this one old friend,” the Aussie wrote. “You will always be someone that impacted the sport in so many different ways, I know this was never the way you wanted to go out, but hey it was a heck of a ride.

“},{“contentType”:”HTML”,”html”:”

“You took me under your wing as soon as I got on tour, and to this day you have been someone I literally just look forward to seeing.

“},{“contentType”:”VIDEO”,”marbleApiEnv”:”prod”,”playerType”:”player”,”videoId”:713945},{“contentType”:”HTML”,”html”:”

“You are one crazy tennis player, miles better than me, but I just want you to know that today isn’t only a sad day for you and your team, it’s a sad day for the sport and for everyone you’ve had an impact on.

“},{“contentType”:”HTML”,”html”:”

“Which leaves me big fella. These are a couple photos, that should make you smile and think, I was actually a little bit of a younger brother to you.

“},{“contentType”:”HTML”,”html”:”

“Anyways, I just want you to know, and I’m sure you already do, everyone wants you to keep fighting and to keep being you. Goodluck at the Australian Open Muzz, I’ll be behind you.”

“},{“contentType”:”HTML”,”html”:”

Just beautiful.

“},{“contentType”:”HTML”,”html”:”

Well played, Nick.

“},{“contentType”:”HTML”,”html”:”

WHAT YOU CONTROVERSIALLY WON’T SEE AT THIS YEAR’S AUSTRALIAN OPEN

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TENNIS WORLD IN AWE OF ‘BEST SHOT I’VE SEEN’

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DEMON WINS ALL-AUSSIE QUARTERFINAL TO ADVANCE IN SYDNEY

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THE SERENA SITUATION: IS IT THE CHAMPION AGAINST THE REST?

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