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Nick Kyrgios vs Maximilian Marterer Mercedes Cup tennis live: Kyrgios returns and targets first grass-court win in two years

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 14 Jun 2018
  • Nick Kyrgios vs Maximilian Marterer is live from Stuttgart around 12.30pm local time on Thursday (11.30am BST)
  • First career meeting between the pair
Nick Kyrgios (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Nick Kyrgios plays his first singles match since April when he opens his grass-court season on Thursday against rising German Maximilian Marterer in the second round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart.

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World No. 24 Nick Kyrgios aims for his grass-court victory in almost two years against Maximilian Marterer in the second round of the ATP 250 Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart on Thursday. Kyrgios has once again unfortunately been restricted to playing a limited schedule in 2018 due to injury problems, the latest of which (an elbow issue) forced him out of the entire clay-court season (although he did play doubles in Lyon in order to test his elbow ahead of the French Open). With his last singles match coming on the clay of Houston in April, is Kyrgios ready to take out the in-form Marterer, who is coming off an impressive run to the Round of 16 at Roland Garros? Kyrgios and Marterer take to court around 12.30pm local time on Thursday (11.30am BST).

What started off as an extremely encouraging start to the season has quickly turned into another challenging campaign littered with injury issues for Kyrgios, with the Australian only playing five matches since the Australian Open as a result. Kyrgios started 2018 with a bang, securing his fourth ATP World Tour title at the Brisbane International, defeating defending champion Grigor Dimitrov en route, but he couldn’t get the better of the Bulgarian a couple of weeks later at the Australian Open as he went down in four sets in the Round of 16. Nevertheless, it was a promising Australian summer for Kyrgios and there were signs he was turning the corner as far as focus and motivation goes.

But Kyrgios was struck down by his elbow injury during the Davis Cup against Germany shortly after the Australian Open, and although he returned to reach the Round of 16 at the Miami Masters and the quarter-finals in Houston, the problem still lingered, and after consulting with his team, he made the executive decision to miss the entire clay-court season in order to rest and recover for his preferred grass. It was a choice made on last season’s happenings - namely Kyrgios playing the clay season when he probably should have skipped it and promptly re-injuring his hip in his first grass match at Queen’s, ultimately forcing him to retire from that tournament and Wimbledon soon after.

Kyrgios hasn’t made the same mistake this time around, and after a low-key return in the doubles of a Challenger event in Surbiton last week, the 23-year-old is set for his return to action on the grass of Stuttgart this week.

Due to his constant injury interruptions and still-relatively young age, Kyrgios has only played 21 tour-level grass-court matches in his career. It all started with a typical Kyrgios headline-grabber as the Australian famously conquered World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2014 as a teenage wildcard on the way to his first Grand Slam quarter-final, while he’s been consistent at the All England Club ever since, making the fourth round in 2015 and 2016 (lost to Gasquet and Murray respectively), while his hip injury caused him to retire in 2017. However, Kyrgios has actually never won a tour-level match on grass outside of Wimbledon, bowing out of in the first round of Queen’s Club in 2015, 2016 and 2017, while he also lost in the first round of the Nottingham Challenger to John-Patrick Smith in 2014 (the year he made the Wimbledon quarter-finals).

A combination of injuries, lack of preparation, great opponents (Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka among others) and a general lack of alertness for competing in smaller tournaments can be attributed to those losses - but after another long injury lay-off, surely Kyrgios will be as eager as ever to return with a win.

Maximilian Marterer (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Maximilian Marterer will have other ideas though. And if you thought Kyrgios’ record on grass (outside of Wimbledon) was underwhelming, Marterer had never actually won a tour-level match in his life on grass before his opening round here in Stuttgart. Indeed, Marterer never played a single match on grass during Futures or Challenger level, while he had lost all three of his tour-level matches on grass - although he did win two matches in Halle qualifying against Denis Istomin and Alexander Bublik last year before losing to Dominic Thiem in the first round. An opening round qualifying loss at Wimbledon to Miljan Zekic followed, but Marterer finally got off the mark in his Stuttgart opener this year, coming from behind to beat qualifier Viktor Gallic 3-6 6-4 6-1.

It comes as no surprise that Marterer was able to win his first grass-court match in 2018, with the German among the most improved players in the world across the first half of the season. Ranked at No. 90 in the world at the start of the year, Marterer has risen 40 spots to a current mark of No. 50 on the back of several eye-catching runs, most notably at Grand Slam level. Marterer had never won a major main draw match before this season, but he defeated Fernando Verdasco on his way to the third round of the Australian Open and backed that up by reaching the fourth round of Roland Garros, where he played a very impressive match against Rafael Nadal.

Marterer has also captured the Cherbourg Challenger title in 2018, along with making the semi-finals of the ATP 250 BMW Open in Munich (beating Diego Schwartzman) and the quarter-finals of Sofia. All up, Marterer has done a lot of winning in 2018 - and that will hold him in good stead as he prepares to face Kyrgios in Stuttgart on Thursday.

This will be the first career meeting between the pair, and as is the case with most matches involving Kyrgios, it’s shaping as an unpredictable encounter. Obviously at their best, Kyrgios is the far superior player with the more lethal grass-court weapons, but as we’ve seen over the years, the Australian can struggle in these lead-in events, while you also have to consider this is his first singles match since April. Marterer has played a lot of matches, is constantly improving and has confidence under his belt. I’m going to (perhaps blindly) place my faith in Kyrgios, but I wouldn’t be surprised at either outcome in this match-up.

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Nick Kyrgios vs Maximilian Marterer Mercedes Cup tennis live: Kyrgios returns and targets first grass-court win in two years

Nick Kyrgios plays his first singles match since April when he opens his grass-court season on Thursday against rising German Maximilian Marterer in the second round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart.

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