Nick Kyrgios 'feels the support,' wins Australian opener

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Nick Kyrgios' first-round match at the Australian Open was as Kyrgios as you could possibly get.

There was his trademark power serving, some jaw-dropping net play, spots of whining and regular praise for his opponent. Between points his towel was frequently seen hanging from his mouth and there were a number of occasions where his frustrated head was being cradled by his hands.

Yes, it was another rollercoaster ride, but in the end Kyrgios managed to prevail. The Aussie No. 23 seed needed a touch over two hours to dispatch feisty Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 7-6, 7-6 on his beloved Melbourne Arena, but booked his ticket to the second round of his home Slam for the first time since 2018.

Kyrgios wrestled the momentum his way early with a break of serve in the fifth game of the match. It was a crucial game, given it lasted a touch over 10 minutes, and from there the Aussie bolted away to a one set lead.

The second set was much tighter and a vocal Sonego refused to give in. The Italian engaged Kyrgios in a slugfest for the next 90 minutes.

But Kyrgios reserved some of his best tennis for the two tiebreakers to decide the second and third sets, hinting that he finally has the temperament to go deep at a major.

"I was really excited to get out and play in front of you guys," Kyrgios said to the crowd post-match. "I wanted to put on a good performance. This is my favourite court in the world. I feel super comfortable and I feel the support. I feel strong and I'm ready to go again."

A major motivation for Kyrgios this summer has been his pledge towards bushfire relief. The 24-year-old is set to donate AU$200 for every ace he hits during the Open, as well as the lead-up events.

Against Sonego, Kyrgios fired down 14 aces -- for what will be an AU$2,800 donation. Not only that, but he won a staggering 91 percent of points when his first serve landed in play.

"It's been an emotional few months," Kyrgios said when congratulated on court by John McEnroe.

McEnroe, a seven-time major champion, then made a generous donation of his own, announcing a pledge of $1,000 for each set Kyrgios wins for the remainder of the tournament.

"I don't know what to say," Kyrgios said. "You're going to make me tear up again."

Kyrgios will face the winner of Argentinian Pablo Cuevas and Frenchman Gilles Simon in the second round.

Germany's Sascha Zverev also is in the giving mood.

He said after his straight-sets win over Marco Cecchinato that he will donate $10,000 for every match he wins at the Australian Open and all his prize money if he wins to bushfire relief.

"I know I'm not the favourite to win this event, but if I do I will donate every single cent to the Bushfires (relief)," the No 7 seed said.

The winner of the Australian Open will receive AU$4.12 million.

ESPN's Simon Cambers contributed to this report.