Qualifying technicality rules Nick Kyrgios out of Australia’s ATP Cup team

Sport

Nick Kyrgios will be a conspicuous absence due to a qualifying technicality as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal headline the field at next month’s ATP Cup in Melbourne.

A dozen countries, including Australia, who will be spearheaded by Alex de Minaur, will compete in the men’s team tournament from 1-5 February.

The inaugural event was played last year in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney and won by Djokovic’s Serbia over Nadal’s Spain, with the world’s top two-ranked players squaring off in the final.

Due to Covid-19, this year’s entire tournament will be staged at Melbourne Park alongside two WTA 500 and two ATP 250 events the week before the Australian Open.

The draw will take place on 20 January, when the 12 teams will be divided into four groups of three for group-stage round-robin play, with each tie consisting of two singles matches and a doubles encounter.

The four group winners will advance to the semi-finals.

Qualification for the 2021 ATP Cup is based on the ATP ranking of each country’s top-ranked singles player, while Australia qualifies by virtue of a host-nation wildcard.

De Minaur leads the local line-up that made the semi-finals last year and will be joined by John Millman, John Peers and Luke Saville. Davis Cup skipper Lleyton Hewitt will once again captain Australia.

But Kyrgios, despite being a hero of last year’s campaign, will not take part because his 11-month absence from the ATP Tour has seen him slip to world No 46. There are only two singles slots, which are filled by the two highest-ranked players from each country – 23rd-ranked de Minaur and 38th-ranked Millman.

Kyrgios, a two-time grand slam quarter-finalist, downed big-hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff, Brit Cameron Norrie and Greece’s world No 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas in successive singles victories en route to the semi-finals.

But it was his inspired display partnering de Minaur in a rousing 18-16 third-set super-tiebreak doubles win over Brits Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury that raised the new roof at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena and clinched Australia a last-four berth.

Kyrgios parlayed his strong ATP Cup form into a fourth-round run at the 2020 Open, finally falling in a four-set thriller to Nadal.

This year he will instead play one of the ATP 250 events in Melbourne for some priceless match practice ahead of the Open.