Nick Kyrgios will face off against Bernard Tomic for the first time as Australia’s most combustible pair battle for last-minute Grand Slam form at the Kooyong Classic from Tuesday.
The three-day event, at the private club which served as the home of the Australian Open until 1988, is famed as a relatively stress-free preparation for the opening major of the year next week at Melbourne Park.
Kyrgios and Tomic will both count on lifting their games, with each suffering in his own way from burnout and lack of motivation.
Controversial Tomic could not even qualify for the Australian Open 12 months ago following a car-crash season, and faced a backlash after later boasting “I just count my millions”.
His ranking is now back up to 51st.
Kyrgios, infamous for petulant behaviour and outbursts on court, ended his season early after arguing with an umpire at Shanghai then picking up an elbow injury in Moscow.
While Australia’s notorious pair will not clash until Wednesday, organisers have lined up a tasty programme, leaving gaps for any late requests in case other top players want match practice under competitive conditions.
In 2018, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played in one-off exhibition matches.
The opening day line-up announced Monday includes American Jack Sock playing Tomic, Serb Filip Krajinovic taking on Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Australian Jason Kubler playing Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.
The event once again includes women, who were invited for the first time last year.
Day one sees rising American teenager Amanda Anisimova face Britain’s Katie Boulter, fresh from the Hopman Cup last week.
In addition a new format — as used last week at the Hopman Cup — will see matches played as best of two sets with a third set, if necessary, a 10-point tiebreak.
The field is headed by top 10 players Marin Cilic and Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson.
World number seven Cilic did not play last week as he works to heal a knee problem while Anderson, ranked six, began 2019 with a title in Pune, India.
“The 2018 highlight for me was achieving some of the goals I had set for myself, specifically making London year-end finals, winning more than one tournament in the year, winning a 500 (series event), and of course making another Grand Slam final,” Anderson said.
“In 2019, I hope to continue pushing the boundaries. A big goal of mine is winning the Masters series, being in the finals there, and giving myself a shot at another Grand Slam.”