The injury-enforced withdrawal of tournament drawcard Nick Kyrgios has thrown the Kooyong Classic into disarray.
Once the go-to Australian Open warm-up tournament boasting the likes of Roger Federer and Andre Agassi among past champions, the loss of Kyrgios has left the event with a bunch of virtual no-names.
Frenchman Gilles Simon at world No.15 and Belgian David Goffin at 16 are the highest ranked players in the field, which was expanded to 12 this year.
But the loss of Kyrgios, whose face is painted on every inch of promotional material, means the tournament is without a “name”.
The polarising Kyrgios withdrew midway through the second set of his match against Goffin on Wednesday after winning the first set in a tie-break.
He aggravated a lower leg soft tissue injury suffered in training the day previous although said he was confident he would be fit for next week’s Australian Open.
Young German Alex Zverev also pulled out of his afternoon match with Brit Kyle Edmund citing a shoulder injury and is no certainty to play on Thursday, leaving organisers scrambling to format an appealing schedule.
Tournament director Brian Cooney admitted it was a blow losing Kyrgios, who was in sparkling form leading into the tournament after steering Australia to the Hopman Cup title.
“You look at the billboards around town and how well he played in Perth … it’s really disappointing,” Cooney said.
But he said the tournament wasn’t solely about producing a champion.
“The purpose of this tournament is to prepare players for next week’s Open.
“To make them play if they’re injured is contrary to that.”
Cooney said there was no question Kyrgios’ injury was genuine and applauded his attempt to play on into the second set before having to bow out.
In the two other matches played in sweltering conditions, Pablo Carreno Busta continued Spain’s dominance with a 6-4 6-3 win over former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.
Promising Australian youngster Omar Jasika also showed grit to take Japan’s world No.7 Kei Nishikori to a deciding tie-break set.
The 18-year-old looked like he would be steamrolled by Nishikori after losing the first set 6-1 but fought back to win a second set tie break (7-3).
The third set was decided by an expanded tie-break with the visitor triumphant 10-4.