Nick Kyrgios has won widespread praise in the tennis world after fronting up and apologising to fans after withdrawing from singles at the Atlanta Open on Wednesday.
The Aussie star, who finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon earlier this month, was scheduled to play Peter Gojowczyk of Germany in the first round in Atlanta.
However the World No.47 announced his withdrawal just minutes before the match, leaving fans highly disappointed.
He struggled with a shoulder issue at Wimbledon, where he achieved a career-best result, and is also battling a knee complaint.
Kyrgios, who won the title in Atlanta in 2016, addressed the crowd to explain his absence, with Frenchman Adrian Mannarino taking his place in the draw before defeating Gojowczyk 6-3 7-6 (9-7).
“I’m extremely shattered that I’m not able to compete tonight,” the 27-year-old told spectators in attendance.
“I’ve won this tournament once and am probably playing some of the best tennis of my career and all I wanted to do was come out here and give you guys a show.
“I’m not able to give out my best performance and I’m extremely sorry and I’m going to keep my hopes up that I may be able to continue doubles with Thanasi (Kokkinakis).
“I hope you won’t be too hard on me … I love you guys and hopefully next year I will be able to compete and give it my all.”
Social media users were full of praise for the way Kyrgios fronted up and explained himself to fans, rather than hiding behind an announcement.
“I give Nick a lot of credit for coming out and addressing the fans… don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do that after pulling out. Hopefully he’s fully healthy in time to win the US Open,” one fan wrote.
Another commented: “Credit to Nick Kyrgios for having the courage to speak to the crowd under the circumstances. Hoping you have a quick bounce-back and continued stellar season.”
The Aussie star also signed some autographs for fans on his way out in another classy touch.
Nick Kyrgios set for fresh rankings slide
Kyrgios said he may still be available to continue in the doubles with compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis, with whom he won the Australian Open title in January.
His withdrawal from the singles in Atlanta could see him fall outside the world top 60 and likely enter the upcoming US Open as an unseeded contender.
While he could have surged up the world rankings with his run to the Wimbledon final, the tournament was stripped of rankings points by the ATP and WTA for its hardline stance to ban Russian and Belarusian players.
That robbed Kyrgios of a surge into the top 20, instead dropping him seven places from World No.40.
However he can make some ground after being granted a wildcard into the ATP 1000 event in Cincinnati which starts on August 14, two weeks before the US Open.
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, who won their maiden grand slam title at the Australian Open, won their first-round encounter against French pairing Nicholas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in Atlanta.
But Kokkinakis was knocked out of the singles draw after a 6-3 6-2 loss to Andres Martin.
It was the first win on the ATP tour in just his third professional tournament for the 21-year-old World No.736, taking it out with an ace.
In other action on Tuesday, Australia’s James Duckworth opened his campaign with a 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 win over German qualifier Dominik Koepfer to set up a last-16 meeting with compatriot Alex de Minaur.
De Minaur, the No.3 seed, received a bye for his first game while John Millman beat fellow Aussie Alexei Popyrin 7-6 4-6 6-3.