By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - It was good while it lasted but Nick Kyrgios's return to action was cut short by injury on Saturday as the Australian maverick was forced to quit after two sets against Felix Auger-Aliassime at Wimbledon.
Kyrgios looked great in the opening set as he broke the 16th seed's serve three times but needed an injury timeout to have treatment on his stomach muscles at 5-2.
Grimacing in discomfort he managed to finish off the opening set but he was clearly hampered during the second set, especially on his serve which suddenly lost all its venom.
After Auger-Aliassime had levelled the match, Kyrgios walked around the net post and shook hands, much to the disappointment of the Court One crowd who were hoping for a classic.
"I've not played at this level for a long time and when you're playing someone as good as Felix I need to have my biggest weapon which is my serve, but I felt something in my ab," the 26-year-old Kyrgios said on court.
Kyrgios has barely played tennis since the sport shut down last year because of the pandemic.
This was his first event since the Australian Open and he played only three in 2020, opting not to travel under the COVID-19 restrictions.
His opening-round win over Frenchman Ugo Umbert was a rivetting five-setter before he beat Italian Gianluca Mager in the next round in straight sets.
Sadly his injury looks like scuppering his dream-team mixed doubles partnership with Venus Williams, although he did have some good news about his future prospects.
"Playing out here and having this kind of support has made me have a second wind. I reckon I'm going to come back and play for a bit longer," said Kyrgios, whose dedication to the sport has often been questioned.
"I did all I could to prepare to get here. I beat a heck of a player first round and I played a great second round.
"I tried to play as long as I could and I'm sorry that I couldn't give you more today but you'll see a lot of him in the future. And he's better looking too, so it's all good."
Auger-Aliassime's rather hollow victory means he joins compatriot Denis Shapovalov in the last 16 -- the first time in the professional era that two Canadian men have lasted that long.
Shapovalov beat another Wimbledon favourite, home hero Andy Murray, on Friday.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)