(REUTERS, AFP) - Australian Nick Kyrgios pulled out of his first-round match with Britain's Andy Murray at the Winston-Salem Open on Sunday (Aug 22) due to knee pain but the 26-year-old is confident he will be fit for next week's US Open.
Kyrgios withdrew from the ATP 250 event in North Carolina in a last-minute call, with lucky loser Noah Rubin replacing him. But the American lost 6-2, 6-0 to Murray.
After a slow start to the first set, former world No. 1 Murray found his form and cruised through. The 34-year-old will next face 13th-seeded Frances Tiafoe, who received a bye into the second round.
The 85th-ranked Kyrgios, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics because he did not want to play in front of empty stands, said he had been dealing with pain in his left knee in the last couple of weeks.
"With the US Open just around the corner, I just didn't feel it was worth the risk of going out there and possibly making it worse, not giving myself the best shot to perform at the US Open," he told reporters.
"To play Andy Murray, a good friend and tennis icon, would have been amazing but I had to look after my body. And with the Grand Slam next week, I wanted to be more cautious.
"I am playing the US Open 100 per cent, it's not like I am finishing my season. I needed more time to get right... the best option today was to rest it."
The year's final tennis Grand Slam runs from Aug 30 to Sept 12 in New York.
Kyrgios' withdrawal threw Sunday's schedule in Winston-Salem into chaos.
The organisers gave Murray several different scenarios before finally deciding he would face Rubin, who had to play back-to-back matches with just an hour's rest between them.
"It was a strange 45 minutes before I played this match," said the Scot. "I didn't know if I would be playing tonight.
"They said I would play a qualifier and wouldn't play until tomorrow. And then they said I would play a lucky loser. So my opponent changed three times in 45 minutes. "Unfortunately for (Rubin) he had to play a tough match in the heat and then had to come out again."
Rubin took to the court after falling to France's Lucas Pouille in a two-hour qualifying final.
Murray has had to battle injuries of his own, with his latest one being a groin problem. But that did not seem to be a factor against Rubin as Murray blasted 11 aces and had just three double faults.
Kyrgios and Murray were set to square off for the seventh time with Murray holding a commanding 5-1 series lead.
"I have been in Florida rehabbing and training and I came here excited to play Andy Murray one of my good friends," said Kyrgios, who stood for his new conference with a cloth medical wrap on his left knee.
His only win came in their most recent match three years ago at the Queen's Club, where Murray made his return following his first hip surgery.
"I had a bit of a hit to see how it is today," Kyrgios said. "I got another week now (until the US Open)."
Kyrgios retired from his third-round match at Wimbledon with an abdominal injury. He lost in his opening matches at Washington and Toronto in recent weeks and this would have been his fifth tournament of the year outside Australia.