Nick Kyrgios never wants to play Thanasi Kokkinakis again after upstaging his grand slam-winning doubles partner to make a bittersweet start to his US Open title tilt.
Kyrgios broke Kokkinakis in each of the first two sets, then clinched the win in a tiebreaker to take bragging rights in the all-Australian affair 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-4) at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night.
But the Wimbledon runner-up says he took little pleasure from the victory over his great mate.
“Probably one of the most uncomfortable matches I’ve played in my career,” Kyrgios said.
“When we both saw the draw, it was a nightmare, honestly. I feel like there’s probably two players – two or three players – that after tennis I’m probably going to stay in contact with till I probably die, to be honest. Thanasi is one of them. It’s just really hard.”
Kyrgios said he even tried to block out Kokkinakis’s body and just focus on the ball to avoid losing focus.
“That kind of helped me,” he said. “In the first couple sets I played incredible from the back of the court.
“I had a real clear game plan of trying to move him as much as I could, not let him dictate. When the ball is on his racquet, he’s dictating play, he’s probably one of the best players in the world.
“I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that forehand tonight.”
Kyrgios said knowing how well Kokkinakis had been playing this season after years of wretched injuries only compounded his anguish at having to face his friend in round one.
“I was telling some people I feel like he had a really good opportunity, the way his body is, the way he’s holding up physically, his belief to play match after match. I thought he had an opportunity to go far in the draw,” said the world No.25.
“Its unfortunate. The way I’m playing, the goals I have, I felt like I had a good opportunity in this tournament too.
“Look, it is what it is. I felt I dealt with it pretty professionally.
“We are going to play each other, hopefully, never again. We will just close that out. I am just happy to move forward.”
As well as clearing one big hurdle with a 17th win from his past 20 matches, Kyrgios also had two other danger men removed from his section of the draw.
His projected second-round opponent Ugo Humbert, the big-serving southpaw who stretched Kyrgios to five sets in a Wimbledon thriller last year, crashed to a surprise defeat to fellow Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.
And if he beats Bonzi on Wednesday, Kyrgios won’t be facing 16th seed Roberto Bautista Agut as expected in the third round after the Spaniard slipped up against American wildcard J.J. Wolf.
Bautista Agut thrashed Kyrgios for the loss of only seven games in New York last year but his demise leaves the Canberran with a seed-free path to a possible last-16 showdown with world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev.
Kyrgios’s victory also completed a fine opening day for Australia, with Alex de Minaur, Ajla Tomljanovic and Jordan Thompson also advancing.
Kokkinakis, John Millman – in five gruelling sets in scorching heat – and Daria Saville were the only casualties.
HOW THE AUSSIES FARED ON DAY ONE OF THE US OPEN:
Men’s singles, first round
18-Alex de Minaur bt Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 7-5 6-2 6-3
23-Nick Kyrgios bt Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-4)
Jordan Thompson bt Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 2-6 1-6 6-2 6-4 6-4
John Millman lost to Emilio Nava (USA) 7-6 (9-7) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 1-6 6-1
Women’s singles, first round
Ajla Tomljanovic bt Karolina Muchova (CZE) 6-3 7-6 (7-5)
Daria Saville lost to Elena-Gabriela Ruse (ROM) 3-6 6-2 6-4