Daniil Medvedev fired a warning to Nick Kyrgios after rising to the occasion to sweep into the Australian Open second round with a straight-sets win over Swiss Henri Laaksonen.
Thrust into title favouritism for the first time at a major following Novak Djokovic's dramatic deportation on Sunday night, Medvedev responded with a 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) victory in his opener on Rod Laver Arena.
"I'm feeling great. Yeah, hopefully I can show some good signs here throughout the two weeks. I like pressure," the Russian said after booking a blockbuster with Kyrgios on Thursday.
"Definitely last year started well here in Australia. Won the ATP Cup, managed to be in the final.
"So, yeah, it's a really important tournament for me always in Australia.
"I like to play here, I like hardcourt. So always want to do better than I did last year, but it's not going to be easy."
Tuesday's victory extended the world No.2's grand slam winning streak to eight matches after Medvedev defeated Djokovic in the US Open final last September.
In landing his maiden major in New York, Medvedev also denied Djokovic a fabled calendar-year grand slam.
Now the 25-year-old is bidding to claim back-to-back slams and has a golden opportunity with the world No.1 spectacularly removed from the draw.
With no top seed, Medvedev is the highest-ranked player in the men's event and a warm favourite to go one better than his loss to the Serb in last year's final.
But Kyrgios threatens to stop Medvedev in the second round after outclassing British qualifier Liam Broady 6-4 6-4 6-3 in his first match in four months.
Medvedev said he'd be an interested observer after Kyrgios missed the summer lead-up events with asthma and a bout of COVID-19.
"First of all, it's going to be interesting to see the match because it's not easy when you don't play a lot of tennis, and Nick didn't for a long time," Medvedev said.
"He's somebody who can always play good. We saw it last year here; he almost knocked out Dominic (Thiem), beat Ugo Humbert in a crazy match where I think he saved a match point when Ugo was serving for the match.
"So I'm interesting to see what is his level. It's definitely going to be not easy (playing him) against the crowd.
"He's going to try to pump himself up. He likes to play big names.
"But I will do my preparation, I will try to play good. If I'm going to be playing good, it's not going to be easy for him."
Australian Associated Press
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