Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis have proven their Australian Open doubles triumph was no fluke, joining forces again to win their Indian Wells opener on Saturday.
The world’s favourite doubles team scored a wildcard into the Masters 1000 event and survived a second-set slump to edge past veteran opponents Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo 7-5 1-6 (10-2) in a first-round cliffhanger.
“We’re definitely going to lose at some points,” Kokkinakis said post-match.
“No, we’re not,” Kyrgios joked.
But there won’t be a much-anticipated rematch with world No.1s and sparring partners Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, who lost in three sets to Americans John Isner and Jack Sock.
Mektic and Pavic took exception to the Special Ks’ on-court antics during the Australian Open and their fitness trainer allegedly threatened to fight Kyrgios in the locker room post-match.
In the singles draw, lucky loser John Millman and Jordan Thompson both enjoyed hard-fought victories, following countrymen Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur into round two.
Millman, who lost in final-round qualifying, made the most of his second chance to down big-serving German Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (8-6) 6-4, while Thompson outlasted Belgium’s David Goffin 4-6 7-6 7-6 (7-3).
Thompson hit 10 aces in a match lasting almost three hours and next faces 33rd seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Dimitrov moved into 20-time grand slam champion and former world No.1 Novak Djokovic’s place in the draw after the unvaccinated Serbian was denied entry into the United States.
Ajla Tomljanovic exited the women’s draw in the second round, losing 6-4 7-5 to 26th-seeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Kyrgios sends ominous reminder of his ability
Nick Kyrgios has capitalised on his Indian Wells wildcard in brilliant fashion to headline three Australian winners at the Masters 1000 event.
Playing his first match since combining with close friend and countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis to win the Australian Open doubles title in January, Kyrgios dispatched fast-rising Argentine Sebastian Baez 6-4 6-0.
Qualifier Daria Saville also progressed with a 6-3 6-2 demolition of last week’s Lyon champion Zhang Shuai, while lucky loser Astra Sharma made the most of her second chance to down Magda Linette 6-4 7-6 (7-1).
But Alexei Popyrin went down 6-3 7-5 to Czech qualifier Tomas Machac for his eighth defeat in 10 matches this year, while Thanasi Kokkinakis lost for the second time in a month to Sebastian Korda.
Korda’s 6-3 6-4 defeat of Kokkinakis, which was far closer than their Delray Beach clash, earned him a shot at 21-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal.
Kyrgios’ blistering performance, which included 14 aces among 22 winners, defied the 26-year-old’s lowly ranking of No.132, which meant he needed a wildcard to avoid qualifying.
Baez has slashed his own ranking from the 300s at the start of last year to his current No.60 but had few answers for Kyrgios’ power game.
A competitive opening set became a landslide in an instant, with the Australian winning 16 of 18 points at one stage to race to a 3-0, double-break lead in the second set that ended the match as a contest.
Baez tried valiantly to avoid a bagel set but his effort to extend Kyrgios to an eight-minute final service game and save five match points only delayed the inevitable.
Kyrgios advances to a second-round showdown with 32nd seed Federico Delbonis, who he beat in a five-set thriller at the 2015 Australian Open in their only previous meeting.
He has enjoyed great success at the Californian event previously, including reaching the quarter-finals in 2017 with back-to-back upsets of Alex Zverev and Novak Djokovic.
Kyrgios opened up in the wake of his Australian Open triumph about the dark times he went through in the past that included “self-harming” but revealed he was in a far better place these days.
He also scored a wildcard into a second Masters 1000 tournament at Miami in March.