MELBOURNE, Australia — After spending the past week receiving all the laurels of a hometown favorite, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the Australian Open on Monday with a knee injury, a little more than 24 hours ahead of his scheduled first-round match.
In an interview Friday, Kyrgios, the temperamental Australian star who was a finalist at Wimbledon last year, said he had been battling soreness in his left knee during the off-season, but he expected to be able to play in the year’s first Grand Slam.
Those hopes took a turn for the worse Friday after a charity match with Novak Djokovic.
“Extremely disappointed,” Kyrgios said during a news conference Monday afternoon at Melbourne Park. “Pretty brutal. One of the most important tournaments of my career.”
After climbing from outside the top 100 in 2021 to play deep into two Grand Slam tournaments last year, Kyrgios was among the favorites heading into the Australian Open, where he won the men’s doubles title last year with his fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis.
The first sign that things were not going as planned emerged in late December, when Kyrgios pulled out of the United Cup, a team competition, just before the start of the event. He then withdrew from an Australian Open tuneup tournament in Adelaide, hoping he would be healthy enough by the start of the Australian Open this week.
Will Maher, Kyrgios’s longtime physiotherapist, said during the Monday news conference that Kyrgios underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test last week that revealed both a cyst and a slight tear in his meniscus. Maher said Kyrgios would go home to Canberra for a procedure later this week. He will spend February rehabilitating the knee and is hoping to be healthy enough to play in March in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
“There’s a parameniscal cyst growing in his left meniscus, which is the result of a small tear in his lateral meniscus,” Maher said. “It’s not a significant injury in the sense that it’s going to be career-threatening, or anything like that.”
Maher said Kyrgios had done everything he could to be able to compete. Last week, he underwent a procedure to drain the cyst. He also received injections to relieve the pressure, and while there was temporary relief, the soreness increased in recent days. Maher said playing could risk creating a more significant injury, such as a tear in his anterior cruciate ligament, or A.C.L.
Kyrgios said that as soon as he lost in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in September, his mind shifted to the Australian Open, where he liked his chances on hardcourts in front of raucous home crowds.
“I always wanted to just do everything right and train right and tick every box, and just be ready,” Kyrgios said. He added: “Obviously, this coming around is just bad timing. But that’s life. Injury is a part of the sport.”
He said he was confident that he would be able to regain the form that made him one of the world’s most feared players, but surgery is the only way to get there.
“Every time I land on serve or push off my serve, you can see on the side of my knee there’s like a little lump,” he said. “That lump will eventually just get bigger and bigger. There’s pressure on my knee, obviously hinders my movement. The only real way to get rid of it is to open up and then just get rid of it.”
Kyrgios has another serious issue to deal with in Canberra in the coming weeks.
In early February, he is due in court to face a charge of common assault stemming from an altercation with an ex-girlfriend, Chiara Passari, in December 2021. Kyrgios has declined to discuss the matter since it became public during his run to the Wimbledon final in July.
Common assault is the least serious assault charge in Australia, but it implies that the victim experienced immediate, unlawful violence, or the threat of it, though not bodily injury. Kyrgios’s lawyers have said they will mount a defense focused on mental illness, citing his history of depression and substance abuse, struggles Kyrgios has said will always be with him but that he now has under control. If the court accepts this defense and dismisses the case, it could then decide to impose a treatment plan. The maximum penalty for common assault is two years’ imprisonment.