Andy Murray faces Nick Kyrgios in first-round blockbuster at Winston-Salem Open

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Andy Murray will face Nick Kyrgios in an enthralling first-round match at next week’s Winston-Salem Open. The Brit received a wildcard into the ATP 250 event, the final warm-up tournament before the US Open, and hoped to be dealt a nicer draw with few top players entering the event so close to the final Grand Slam of the year. It will be the pair’s seventh meeting.

Murray has had a stop-start 2021 season so far, first being forced out of the Australian Open having been unable to find a ‘workable quarantine’ for the major following his positive Covid test.

He missed the ATP 500 event in Dubai following the birth of his fourth child, and then withdrew from the Miami Open with a groin injury.

The former world No 1 then decided to skip the clay court season to extend his preperation for the British grass events in the summer – bar one doubles entry into the Italian Open – and returned at the Queen’s Club, securing a victory over Benoit Paire before falling to eventual champion Matteo Berrettini.

Meanwhile, Kyrgios has barely played himself since the end of 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The controversial Aussie did not play a match between September 2019 and the ATP Cup in January 2020, before having an impressive run to the round of 16 at his home Grand Slam, ultimately falling to Rafael Nadal.

He lost in the first round of the Mexican Open a month later, where he was defending champion, and didn’t play again until earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Winston-Salem will mark just Kyrgios’ fifth international event since the pandemic began, as he entered Wimbledon and retired with an injury in the third round, before playing in the North American hard court swing.

The world No 81 played two matches in Atlanta before coming into Washington as the defending champion from 2019 and losing to Mackenzie McDonald.

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Kyrgios received a wildcard into the Toronto Masters but lost to eventual runner-up Reilly Opelka, while Murray earned a wildcard into the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati a week later.

The current world No 105 beat fellow tour-veteren Richard Gasquet in the first round before Wimbledon semi-finalist Hubert Hurkacz defeated him in straight sets.

Both Murray and Kyrgios now come into the ATP 250 event in Winston-Salem looking to get more match wins under them ahead of the US Open, which starts on August 30.

The Brit leads their head-to-head by five wins to one loss, but the pair haven’t faced off in three years.

The pair were drawn against each other in the first round of the Queen’s Club Championships in 2018, when Murray was still facing an ongoing hip injury but was yet to undergo his resurfacing surgery.

Kyrgios secured his first and only win over the three-time Grand Slam champion, coming from a set down to earn a 2-6 7-6(4) 7-5 victory.

Prior to that, Murray had won all five of their clashes dating back to 2014, including victories at each of the four Grand Slams.

Murray and Kyrgios are yet to face each other after their respective breaks from the tour, but are good friends off the court, having shared videos of their trip to Cicinnati amusement park Kings Island together in the past.

The Brit recently complimented the 26-year-old while also revealing his criticism about his friend, saying: “I like watching [Nick] Kyrgios when he’s into it.

“When he’s not into it, I don’t enjoy that at all. But when he’s into it, I really enjoy watching him.”

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