Nick Kyrgios was down at Queen’s Club on the first day of the Aegon çhampionships, but emphatically not out of Wimbledon in two weeks’ time, he says – whatever the state of a lingering hip injury.
The world No20 slipped on the sweating grass at 4-4 in the first set of his match against Donald Young on a steaming hot Monday afternoon, aggravating a chronic complaint he thought had healed, and retired after the American left-hander won the tie-break for the loss of three games.
Kyrgios insisted he would play at Wimbledon even if he were injured. “Yeah, 100%. I’d play Wimbledon if I was injured pretty bad, anyway. I’m here, anyway. I don’t really have time to go home or anything. I will be playing, for sure. My main goal is to play well at Wimbledon. I’m going to try and get it better and rehab it and hopefully it settles down. I’m sure it will. There is no point of playing on if I’m feeling pain in my hip.”
The British No2 Kyle Edmund went out of the tournament meekly after three tight sets against Denis Shapovalov, gifting him two double faults and a final framed forehand after 2hr 8min. The Canadian teenager, who won junior Wimbledon last year, fought hard for his 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4 win and broke a seven-match losing sequence to earn him a second-round match against the seventh seed Tomas Berdych, who defeated Steve Darcis 7-5, 6-3.
There was a glimmer of hope for Edmund at 15-40 in his last service game, when he sent Shapovalov the wrong way on the tricky grass. In record 36C heat, they remained committed all the way to the end. They met here in conditions vastly different from their last encounter – in Ottawa in February when it was so cold outside the hall hosting the Davis Cup tie that locals were still skating on the iced-up Rideau Canal.
Shapovalov had a meltdown that day and it cost his country the tie when, after being broken at the start of the third set, he belted a ball wildly, striking the chair umpire, Arnaud Gabas, in the eye and defaulted the deciding rubber. James Keothavong had a quieter time of it in the chair on Monday.
Aljaz Bedene, who begins his campaign against the world No1 Andy Murray on Tuesday – and predicts the Scot should be favourite to retain his Wimbledon title – says players have to take the grass in their stride, literally.
“Yeah, it’s a little bit more slippery here,” he said, “but grass is grass. You can’t always make it dry. I do remember I fell once while running for a ball here. Last year I played on a wet surface on Court No1, but grass is a different surface and we just have to accept it.”
Bedene said he switched from Halle to Queen’s Club at the last minute because he was definitely in the draw in London and would have had to wait longer for confirmation in the German tournament, which he reckoned was slightly weaker.
“That was one of the reasons why Halle would be a better option,” he said. “You’ve got Roger [Federer] there and a few other great players, but the field here is really strong. But I played Andy last year here. I was enjoying it. I’ll try to do that this year again.”
Nevertheless, he sees Murray as a better bet than the resurgent 35-year-old Federer at Wimbledon – and more likely to win it than any of the other contenders. “Queen’s is the second biggest tournament on grass, and it’s a good preparation for Wimbledon. That’s why so many great players pick it. Andy loves it. And, yeah, I think he’s the favourite.”