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Australian Open first round preview: Nick Kyrgios pulls out through injury

The first round of the Australian Open gets underway on Monday, but home fans will have been left disappointed following the news Nick Kyrgios will miss the tournament through injury.

Kyrgios was to face Russian Roman Safiullin in his Melbourne opener, but a knee injury has left him sidelined for the competition.

Meanwhile, in the women’s draw, top seed Iga Swiatek could face a potentially tricky first hurdle when she takes on Jule Niemeier, who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last summer.

Iga Swiatek v Jule Niemeier

Swiatek goes into the first Grand Slam of 2023 as the undisputed top dog in the women’s game and an 11/5 shot to claim the Australian Open title.

However, she has been handed a testing first-round match against German Jule Niemeier, who enjoyed a storming run to the last eight at SW19 in the summer of 2022.

The 23-year-old backed that success up by reaching the fourth round at the US Open, where it took Swiatek three sets to win out, before going on to claim her third Grand Slam crown.

Niemeier took the first set at Flushing Meadows before Swiatek found her form to progress 2-6 6-4 6-0, so the Pole can’t expect to have an easy ride in her Melbourne opener.

Swiatek may be 1/12 to defeat Niemeier and 1/3 to do so in two straight sets, but she looks certain to be given a decent workout by her German opponent - with their New York clash their only previous meeting.

Matteo Berrettini v Andy Murray

Andy Murray is very much the nearly man of Melbourne, having lost in the Australian Open final on no fewer than five occasions.

Injuries and the passage of time mean that he is highly unlikely to make a deep run at the opening Grand Slam of the season, but he will not go down without a fight against former Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini.

The pair met at the US Open late last year and it was the Italian who came out on top in their third-round match, eventually subduing the Scot in four sets - 6-4 6-4 6-7 6-3 - to make it three wins out of four against Murray.

A similar outcome looks likely this time around, with Berrettini 12/5 to triumph in four sets.

Andrey Rublev v Dominic Thiem

Another player who has fallen from the top echelons of the game due to injury is Dominic Thiem, who has reached the final of three of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

2020 runner-up to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne - he had lost to Rafael Nadal in the French Open finals of the previous two years - he made up for those defeats by coming back from two sets down to down Alexander Zverev in the US Open final of 2020.

However, since then he has been blighted by wrist problems and has so far been unable to produce anything like his best from.

An Australian Open opener against fifth seed Andrey Rublev looks to be a very tough ask for Austrian Thiem, with his Russian opponent 3/10 to make it safely through to round two.

Rublev was a quarter-finalist in Melbourne back in 2021 and has only lost once in the first round in Australia in six previous campaigns.

This pair’s head-to-head record stands at 4-2 in favour of Rublev, who has won his last four matches against Thiem and who should be able to stretch his advantage this time around.

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