Nick Kyrgios has kickstarted his clay-court campaign with an impressive three-set win over world No.14 Daniil Medvedev at the Rome Masters.
Bounced out of Madrid in a first round loss last week, Kyrgios looked up against it for more significant time on the red dirt before the French Open starts later this month when he was drawn to play the in-form Russian.
But the mercurial Australian showed moments of his genius in a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win over Medvedev, who has a clay-court final and semi-final appearance to his name already this season.
More underarm serves and a liberal dosing of drop shots were the hallmarks of an impressive first set by Kyrgios as Medvedev clearly struggled with his opponent's tactics.
"I was trying to throw him off his game because I knew he loves rhythm. He's a great player," Kyrgios said.
"Today was a lot of fun. I thought the crowd was a lot of fun. It's very important to go out there and put on a bit of a show."
After receiving treatment on his back following the first set, Medvedev lifted and ultimately secured a break in the eighth game of the second following a loose few points from Kyrgios.
But Kyrgios quickly regained the ascendancy to put Medvedev to the sword.
Defeat prompted a bitter response from the Russian.
"When he (Kyrgios) starts playing with worse opponents he starts showing knee pain," Medvedev was quoted by Eurosport.
"Because he does not want to show that, for him, it's difficult to play with that opponent.
"I think I do not have his attitude.
"But, if I will have it, people will hate me more than Kyrgios."
Kyrgios will play Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud in the second round, the Canberran looking for more ranking points to gain a seeding for Roland Garros.
A possible round of 16 clash looms against seventh seed Juan Martin del Potro.
World No.5 Alexander Zverev crashed out after a 7-5 7-5 defeat by home favourite Matteo Berrettini.
David Goffin produced two blistering sets to fight back and beat Stanislav Wawrinka 4-6 6-0 6-2.
Karen Khachanov, the 11th seed, progressed through to the last 16 with a 5-7 6-4 6-2 win over Roberto Bautista-Agut.
Grigor Dimitrov was a first-round casualty, going down to Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-3.
But Marin Cilic made it through to the second round, while Borna Coric, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Jeremy Chardy also progressed.
Australian Associated Press