Nick Kyrgios pulled out injured from the Australian Open on Monday without hitting a ball, saying he was “devastated” to miss his home Grand Slam.
The talented but temperamental Australian, considered an outside chance of winning the title, had struggled with an ankle issue leading into the event.
But it was knee discomfort that forced the Wimbledon finalist out, a day before he was due to face Russian Roman Safiullin in the first round. He will require minor surgery.
Kyrgios was also planning to defend his doubles title alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis.
He joins a growing list of players to withdraw from the opening Grand Slam of the year, including men’s world number one Carlos Alcaraz and two-time women’s champion Naomi Osaka.
“I’m devastated, obviously,” he said at a hastily arranged press conference at Melbourne Park, describing the pain as a “constant throbbing”.
“I’ve had some great tournaments here, winning the doubles last year and playing the tennis of my life probably going into this event.
“I’m just exhausted from everything, and (it’s) obviously pretty brutal. One of the most important tournaments of my career. It hasn’t been easy at all,” he added.
“There’s a mixture of emotions... just bad timing, but that’s life. injuries are part of the sport.”
His physio Will Maher said a scan showed a cyst as a result of a small tear in his lateral meniscus, but it was not a career-threatening injury.
Kyrgios’s team used a charity match against Novak Djokovic on Friday to test out the injured knee and the Australian “didn’t pull up great”.
“He still tried to give himself every chance in the following days to have subsequent training,” said Maher. “But it was clear that with each passing session that he was getting sorer and sorer.
“I think we’ve made the sensible decision to withdraw him... we wanted to prevent him from having further injury or making that injury worse.”
Kyrgios will return home to Canberra for minor surgery and is expected to be fit for the Masters event at Indian Wells in early March.
On Saturday, the 27-year-old said that expectations he could go far at the opening Grand Slam of the year were stressful and made it hard to focus.
But the divisive Australian also said he was humbled to be in a position where people considered him in with a real shot of winning a first Grand Slam.
While his frequent tantrums have long overshadowed his talent, Kyrgios had a stellar 2022, making a barnstorming run to a first Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon, before losing to Djokovic.