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Posted: 2018-01-08 09:20:58

Australian Wimbledon winner Pat Cash says Nick Kyrgios is an "outside favourite" to win the Australian Open, while the country's No.2-ranked male tennis player Matthew Ebden says Kyrgios' knee problems won't hamper his 2018 home grand slam tilt. 

Kyrgios – Australia's top-ranked male player – beat Ebden after being a set down in their Brisbane International round of 16 clash on Wednesday. Kyrgios won the tournament on Sunday night, beating American Ryan Harrison in straight sets to seal his first ATP tour win in Australia. 

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Ebden told reporters at the launch of the Kooyong Classic on Monday that Kyrgios regularly goes into competitions with lingering fitness issues and that the 22-year-old's powerful serve meant he could finish games quickly. 

"It's not like he has to grind for every point like some of the guys through all of the best of five so I think that serve can really carry him through a lot of sets and matches and he can start to get in third, fourth round, quarters then who knows," Ebden said. "He is going to be a pretty good chance [of winning the Australian Open].

"Our sport is so physical now, seven best of five matches over two weeks is not so easy. Especially if it's hot and the courts whatever but I think that serve can give him a lot of free points that he can play smart with the rest of his game. I think he has got a real good shot." 

Kyrgios' knee strength seemed to improve through the Brisbane International. He looked uncomfortable in his first match against Ebden but not too hampered by the final. Speaking on Sunday Kyrgios said he was optimistic about his body. 

"Even if I'd lost first round here, I'd probably still feel good going into next week. But just playing a lot of matches and coming through, that's confidence for any player. Now it's about recovery. I'll go to Sydney and play Fast4 and Tie Break 10s to keep a bit of match practice. 

"Right now it's all about recovery. But I'm playing well under pressure and in pressure situations."

Kyrgios has been criticised for not showing enough determination or resilience on the tennis court. However on his run to winning the Brisbane International he came back from a set down to win matches three times against Ebden, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Grigor Dimitrov. 

The 1987 Wimbledon winner and two-time Australian Open runner-up Pat Cash echoed Ebden's comments on Monday, when he said Kyrgios was "one of the outside favourites" for the Australian Open. 

"Nick is going to break through eventually, there is no doubt about that, it's just when," Cash said. "Whether his body can hold up to five sets round after round we have to wait and see.

"But he may not have to play for five sets. Nick is such a player that he can blow players away quickly and there is no doubt about his talent. I think he is maturing, getting better every year bit by bit." 

He said injury clouds hanging over world No.1 Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka made it more likely an outsider would win, but he still tipped glory for Roger Federer. 

Meanwhile, Ebden is ranked No.76 in the world. His highest ranking was No. 57 in June 2012. After a frustrating 12 to 18 months interrupted by injury where his ranking dipped as low as No. 698, the 30-year-old is attacking 2018 with renewed vigour.

"I think I can go higher than I have before," he said. "My ultimate goal has just been to see how good I can be. I think I have got more potential that I can get better ... I wouldn't be surprised if my best tennis is still ahead of me."

Ebden will play world No.6 Marin Cilic at Kooyong on Wednesday. The pair join other big names like Nadal, Richard Gasquet, David Goffin, Kevin Anderson, and Djokovic at the Kooyong Classic, which begins on Tuesday. 

Bernard Tomic will also play at Kooyong. He will face Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka in a Fast4 three-set match on Tuesday. 

Djokovic will play two before the Australian Open – the first against Dominic Thiem on Wednesday at Kooyong – in a bid to regain fitness from an elbow injury that's kept him sidelined since July. Nadal, who plays Gasquet on Tuesday, is trying to regain touch after a knee injury has kept him out since November. 

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Destanee Aiava will play in the women's Kooyong Classic competition. She will join Andrea Petkovic, Belinda Bencic and 16-year-old Chinese prodigy Wang Xinyu as the women stepping out. 

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