‘Struggled to breathe’ – Nick Kyrgios overcomes tough start to win on return at the Japan Open

Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has made a winning return to the court as he overcame an early scare to beat Taiwan’s Tseng Chun-hsin 6-3 6-1 on Tuesday night at the Japan Open. 

Kyrgios hadn’t played competively in a nearly a month after his quarter-final exit at the US Open. 

The 27-year-old was seen a real contender at Flushing Meadows this year, particularly after knocking out reigning champion Daniil Medvedev, but lost in five sets to Karen Khachanov. 

Eager to put that disappointment behind him, Kyrgios put in an emphatic performance upon his return in Tokyo. 

The Aussie wasn’t broken once during the match, won 89 per cent of points on his first serve and overcame a difficult physical start.

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Kyrgios, who suffers from asthma, admitted after the match that he was having some difficulty breathing as he worked his way back into match fitness. 

“The first couple of games I struggled to breathe, I think just the humidity and getting back into competitive play,” Kyrgios said post-match. 

“I came out a bit slow but I don’t play many matches so it’s hard to just get straight back into that competitive flow.

“But as soon as I held that first game, I found my form again and played really well.

“To play in front of the crowd is amazing, they’re so respectful and they always love good tennis.

“The last couple of years, Covid has affected the tournament so it’s just good to have this event back and running again.”

Kyrgios will now face Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak on Thursday in the round of 16 and the fifth seed looks like a strong title chance in Japan.

Top seed Casper Ruud suffered a shock exit on Tuesday as he lost in straight sets with Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe looming as Kyrgios’ biggest remaining challengers. 

It was an otherwise bad day for Australians at the Japan Open with both Alex de Minaur and Thanasi Kokkinakis losing in straight sets. 

Aussies will be hoping to do better in doubles on Wednesday with Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, De Minaur, Max Purcell, Matt Ebden and Alexei Popyrin all in action. 

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