Nick Kyrgios has kickstarted his clay court campaign with an impressive three-set win over world No.14 Daniil Medvedev at the Rome Masters.
Bounced out of Madrid in a first round loss last week, Kyrgios looked up against it for more significant time on the red dirt before the French Open later this month when he was drawn to play the in-form Russian.
But the mercurial Australian showed moments of his genius in a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win over Medvedev who has a claycourt final and semi-final appearance to his name already this season.
More underarm serves and a liberal dosing of dropshots were the hallmarks of an impressive first set by the world No.36, Medvedev clearly struggling with his opponent’s tactics.
“I was trying to throw him off his game because I knew he loves rhythm. He’s a great player,” Kyrgios said.
“Today was a lot of fun. I thought the crowd was a lot of fun. It’s very important to go out there and put on a bit of a show.
After receiving treatment on his back following the first set, Medvedev lifted and ultimately secured a break in the eighth game of the second following a loose few points from Kyrgios.
But Kyrgios quickly gained the ascendancy in the decider, breaking the Russian in his first service game.
Medvedev had two break points to get the match back on serve in the seventh game but was unable to capitalise, Kyrgios then spectacularly winning the contest with four consecutive aces.
While both players received code violations there appeared to be no particular beef between the pair despite a recent interview where Medvedev appeared to be a little critical of the Australian.
Medvedev had been reported by Eurosport as saying: “When he (Kyrgios) starts playing with worse opponents he starts showing knee pain.
“Because he does not want to show that, for him it’s difficult to play with that opponent.
“I think I do not have his attitude, but if I will have it, people will hate me more than Kyrgios.”
Kyrgios will play Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud in the second round, the Canberran looking for more ranking points to gain a top 32 seeding for Roland Garros.
A possible round of 16 clash looms against seventh seed Juan Martin del Potro.
World No.5 Alexander Zverev continued his poor recent form as he crashed out after a 7-5 7-5 defeat by home favourite Matteo Berrettini.
David Goffin produced two blistering sets to fight back and beat Stanislav Wawrinka 4-6 6-0 6-2.