Canberra's Nick Kyrgios will play Benjamin Becker in his Australian Open debut next week. Photo: Scott Barbour
Canberra's teenage tennis sensation Nick Kyrgios has declared his dodgy shoulder ready for his Australian Open debut.
And while Australian great Pat Cash warned against heaping pressure on the former junior world No. 1, former coach Todd Larkham said Kyrgios had the ability to take advantage of a ''dream draw'' and progress several rounds into the tournament at Melbourne Park.
Plagued by illness and injuries to his elbow and shoulder, Kyrgios finally got his Australian summer campaign under way with a fighting 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 loss to world No. 33 Fernando Verdasco at Kooyong on Friday.
But it was a boost of confidence for the 18-year-old, who faces world No. 81 Benjamin Becker in his Australian Open debut next week.
Kyrgios was forced to withdraw from tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney, but shoulder specialist Greg Hoy has cleared him of any need for surgery.
''I hadn't played in a while and to play Fernando in my first match back was a great opportunity,'' Kyrgios said. Verdasco ranked as high as No. 7 in the world and is seeded 31 for the Australian Open.
''It gives me a lot of confidence to be playing at that level in my first match. It's a good sign with the Australian Open coming up.
''[The shoulder] feeling a lot better and I've done all the right things for it - I'm pretty confident it will hold up.''
Kyrgios said he considered Becker ''one of the most solid players on tour''.
But Larkham, who coached Kyrgios as a junior, admitted it was a great opportunity for the former Daramalan student.
Becker, no relation to German great Boris Becker, has not made it past the second round of the Open in six appearances.
The winner is likely to face France's Benoit Paire in the second round, the 27th seed opening against a qualifier.
Fifth-seeded Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro is the most likely third-round opponent.
''It's a great draw for Nick,'' Larkham said. ''When you're not seeded you can draw anyone but that's about as good as it can get.
''If Nick can win his first match, which is 50-50, the second round against Paire is very winnable as well. He's very flashy, he's had some good wins but he's very up and down and it's the kind of match Nick could win.''
Australian compatriots received horror draws, notably Bernard Tomic, who will face top seed Rafael Nadal.
Cash, who coached Kyrgios in the Australian Junior Davis Cup team in 2011, said he had always been destined for the game's biggest stage.
''His ball striking was just much harder than any other kid, much cleaner. He hit shots that other kids just didn't have,'' Cash said.
''He played like a man at that age … he was in a different league.''
But Cash, who played his first Australian Open at 16, warned against putting unrealistic expectations on Kyrgios too early.
''It can get tough for a young guy,'' he said. ''He's obviously had some injuries … and with a bit of luck he might win a few matches, but I wouldn't expect too much from him, he hasn't played a lot this summer.
''He'll be very keen to play, playing at home in front of his family and supporters he'd love to do well, but I wouldn't expect too much.
''Just take a lot of experience out of it … get on court with some of the best players in the world.
''I think he'll just go for it and fingers crossed he'll play well.''
Larkham felt Kyrgios' lack of matchplay in recent months would not detract from his performance in Melbourne, where he won the junior title last year.
''He's always played well fresh - even when he's come off long training blocks, the first up tournament is often his best. He did that at the US Open, came out firing in the qualifiers.
''As long as he's fit, I expect him to come out and play well. I don't think lack of matches will be an issue.''