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Nick Kyrgios vs Noah Rubin BB&T Atlanta Open tennis live: Former champion Kyrgios aims for fifth Atlanta win on the trot

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 25 Jul 2018
  • Nick Kyrgios vs Noah Rubin is live from Atlanta at 7.00pm local time on Thursday (12.00am BST, Friday)
  • First career meeting between the pair
Nick Kyrgios (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Former champion Nick Kyrgios begins his BB&T Atlanta Open title quest on Thursday when he takes on American qualifier Noah Rubin in the second round.

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Unbeaten at the BB&T Atlanta Open after capturing the title in his only previous appearance back in 2016, Nick Kyrgios launches his U.S. Open Series on Thursday against qualifier Noah Rubin. Kyrgios, who is playing just his fourth hardcourt tournament of the season, has been training hard at his base in the Bahamas as he prepares for the upcoming hardcourt swing in North America, and declaring he loves the conditions here in Atlanta, the Australian has got to be considered the most likely man to knock off four-time champion John Isner this week - as he did in 2016. Rubin meanwhile has nothing to lose as he attempts to secure one of the biggest wins of his career after winning just his second tour-level match of 2018 in the opening round. Kyrgios and Rubin take to court at 7.00pm local time on Thursday (12.00am BST, Friday).

About to compete in just his fourth hardcourt tournament of the season, Kyrgios once again is set to embark on what should be a fruitful U.S. Open Series - but whether it actually will be, well only time will tell. Injuries, unfortunately, have become synonymous with Kyrgios in his career to date - when he’s operating at the peak of his powers and his zoned in mentally, he’s proven to be one of the best players in the world, but if he’s not at 100 per cent fitness, that can lead to other problems focus-wise, and it all sort of unravels from there. In short, I’m very confident in Kyrgios making a big impact throughout this U.S. Open Series if he remains healthy, but if those niggling injury issues surface, then some early exits might be on the horizon. There’s no way of telling what’s going to happen with the Australian, but you always know it’s going to be an entertaining ride!

Kyrgios hasn’t really had the chance to create any real momentum for himself this season. One of only a handful of active players to own wins over the ‘Big Four’ of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, Kyrgios has only played seven tournaments in 2018 due to an elbow injury. The 23-year-old started the season in encouraging fashion as he beat Grigor Dimitrov to capture his fourth ATP World Tour title in Brisbane before going on to make the fourth round of the Australian Open, where he lost to the Bulgarian in four sets.

But that’s when his elbow problem became too much - he lost to Alexander Zverev in the Davis Cup and Miami before missing the entire European clay-court season, apart from a doubles cameo appearance in Lyon alongside Jack Sock. It was smart decision from Kyrgios, who if you remember from the previous year, played through the pain on clay before being forced to retire from Wimbledon as it became unbearable. Kyrgios, who nevertheless made his first ATP Masters 1000 final in Cincinnati and finished runner-up in Beijing to end 2017, was able to enjoy full grass-court swing in 2018 as a result, pushing Roger Federer to a final-set tiebreak in the semi-finals of Stuttgart, repeating that effort with another semi-final showing at Queen’s Club (lost to Marin Cilic) before bowing out in the third round of Wimbledon to Kei Nishikori - somebody who is a horrible match-up for him in terms of the backhand to backhand exchanges Kyrgios can’t seem to escape whenever they clash.

On a four-match winning streak in Atlanta after beating John Isner to secure the 2016 title, can Kyrgios extend that run on Thursday against a dialled-in opponent?

Noah Rubin (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Noah Rubin has already won three matches in Atlanta over the last week, successfully qualifying for the main draw with straight sets wins over Evan King and Jason Jung before securing just his second ATP win of the season by registering an impressive 6-3 6-4 triumph over another Australian in Thanasi Kokkinakis - the man who beat Roger Federer in Miami earlier this year.

"I felt good coming into this [match]," Rubin said. "I played good in qualifying and... I thought I played solid and kept my composure the whole time."

Described by John McEnroe as the "the most talented player we've come across” as Rubin honed his talents as a junior at the legend’s tennis academy in Manhattan, the American - who is now 22 years old - hasn’t really been able to break through to the next level so far in his career, consistently hovering between 160-250 in the rankings over the last couple of years. A Wimbledon boys champion in 2014, Rubin has enjoyed some of his best results down under, making the Australian Open second round in 2016 and 2017, beating Benoit Paire two years ago and pushing eventual Roger Federer in an impressive display last year, while he also won the Launceston Challenger that same season.

Rubin has added two more Challenger titles to his trophy cabinet in 2018, taking home the Noumea and Tallahassee crowns in hitting his career-high ranking of No. 161 (currently ranked No. 164), while he made his French Open debut (lost to John Isner in R1) after winning his first tour-level match of the season in Geneva over Marcos Baghdatis. Rubin went on to lose in the first round of Wimbledon qualifying to compatriot Michael Mmoh, but he’s on a nice little run here in Atlanta and can certainly trouble Kyrgios if the Australian is flat in his first hardcourt match since Miami.

But, even given the unpredictably factor surrounding Kyrgios, I’d be very surprised if the Australian went walkabout in this match. Kyrgios has been putting in work in the Bahamas prior to arriving in Atlanta and he has stated he loves the hot and humid conditions - as illustrated through his triumph at the tournament two years ago. A slow start is a distinct possibility, but when all is said and done, the lethal serving of Kyrgios should be too much for Rubin to overcome.

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Nick Kyrgios vs Noah Rubin BB&T Atlanta Open tennis live: Former champion Kyrgios aims for fifth Atlanta win on the trot

Former champion Nick Kyrgios begins his BB&T Atlanta Open title quest on Thursday when he takes on American qualifier Noah Rubin in the second round.

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