Nick Kyrgios withdraws from Australian Open

Nick Kyrgios
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MELBOURNE, Australia — A “devastated” Nick Kyrgios pulled out of the Australian Open on Monday — the day before he was scheduled to play his first-round singles match — because of an injured left knee that needs arthroscopic surgery.

Kyrgios, a 27-year-old from Australia, was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year in singles and teamed with good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to claim the men’s doubles championship at the 2022 Australian Open.

Kyrgios was considered the host country’s strongest chance to win a title at Melbourne Park this year; no man from Australia has won the singles trophy there since 1976.

“Just bad timing. But that’s life,” said a downcast Kyrgios, who occasionally lowered his head or covered his face with a hand during a news conference at Melbourne Park alongside his physical therapist, Will Maher. “Injury is a part of the sport.”

Kyrgios announced his withdrawal on Day 1 of action at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament, where Rafael Nadal advanced and Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu also won to set up a blockbuster second-round match.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

“I’m just exhausted from everything. Obviously pretty brutal,” Kyrgios said of the decision to sit out. “One of the most important tournaments of my career. Hasn’t been easy at all.”

He was seeded 19th in Melbourne and was supposed to face Roman Safiullin in the first round on Tuesday.

“Barely had a good night’s sleep the last four, five nights. It’s just been throbbing. … 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. That lump will eventually just get bigger and bigger,” Kyrgios said. “There’s pressure on my knee (that) obviously hinders my movement. Yeah, the only real way to get rid of it is to open up and then just get rid of it.”

He joins a long list of prominent players who are not participating in this Australian Open, from the now-retired Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Ash Barty to the pregnant Naomi Osaka, to the injured Carlos Alcaraz, Venus Williams and Marin Cilic.

Kyrgios is as mercurial a character as there is in tennis, known for alternating sometimes-brilliant and sometimes-uninterested play, as well as mixing in the occasional outlandish outburst during matches. He has spoken frankly about dealing with mental health issues.

Kyrgios also has been facing a charge of assault in a pending court case in his hometown of Canberra.

He is nothing if not attention-grabbing on and off a tennis court, certainly, which is why he is one of the athletes featured in the new Netflix docuseries “Break Point” that made its debut last week.

The Australian Open was supposed to mark Kyrgios’ official season debut after he withdrew from tuneup play earlier in January. He used an exhibition match against Djokovic on Friday in front of a packed house at Rod Laver Arena to test the knee, but that did not go well.

Maher said that an MRI exam after Kyrgios felt discomfort in his knee revealed a cyst and a small tear in the lateral meniscus ligament. The trainer said the problem is “not career-threatening,” and that Kyrgios should be able to return to competition by the hard-court tournament at Indian Wells, California, in March.

“Look, I’m not doubting I will be back to my full strength and playing the tennis I was playing prior to this event. Yeah, I’m devastated obviously. It’s like my home tournament. I’ve had some great memories here — obviously last year, winning the title in doubles and playing the best tennis of my life, probably. Then going into this event as one of the favorites, it’s brutal,” Kyrgios said.

“All I can do now,” he added, “is just look forward, do what I need to do and come back.”

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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