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W2W4 at Australian Open: Kyrgios should be worried about next foe

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Could Kyrgios win the Australian Open? (1:34)

Nick Kyrgios is going in to the Australian Open as the second or third favourite to win, according to Brad Gilbert. (1:34)

The second round of the Australian Open gets underway Wednesday, and it's the men's side of the draw that will offer the most compelling matchups.

Opening day of the tournament was a disaster for U.S. women, who were loaded up in the bottom half and went a mind-numbing 0-for-8. The mass exodus included 2017 finalist Venus Williams, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens and CoCo Vandeweghe.

American men had nothing to crow about, either. Two of the top three U.S. players, No. 9 Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner, were eliminated on the first day.

Here are our three Day 3 matches to watch:

No. 17 seed Nick Kyrgios vs. No. 55 Viktor Troicki (Kyrgios leads series 1-0)

After racing through a first-round win, Kyrgios provided the essential scouting report on Troicki in his news conference: "He's tricky ... good serve ... great backhand ... been on the tour for a long time, won a lot of matches. In the Grand Slams, he's made the fourth round a lot of times [five]. He knows the ups and downs that come in a Grand Slam match."

All true, but what's also true is that Kyrgios blew Troicki away last year in Montreal in their only previous clash. Kyrgios can do that to anyone when he's dialed in and eager to play, and that appears to be the case these days. The controversial Aussie, at age 22, finally seems to be maturing -- or perhaps he's just hearing the footsteps of all those talented 20-and-under players threatening to pass him by in the rankings.

This promises to be a battle between the heavy artillery and veteran wiles of the 31-year-old Troicki and the quickness -- and spectacular shot-making -- of his young rival. Kyrgios will have plenty of support from his Aussie fans, but that will put him under a lot of pressure should Troicki manage to keep it close.

Kyrgios won just two Grand Slam matches last year, but he enters this clash with confidence sky-high, thanks to his title win in Brisbane a week ago.

No. 58 Monica Puig vs. No. 79 Kaia Kanepi (Kanepi leads 1-0)

Consistency might be "the hobgoblin of little minds," but it's a valuable thing to a tennis player. These women can ruefully attest to that, mainly because they have never been able to develop it. However, they're both talented and are likely to put on a sensational show.

Puig transcends the bread-and-butter baseline game. Her style is anchored in a two-handed backhand, but it's multidimensional. Puig is capable of reaching great heights, as she demonstrated by winning singles gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Kanepi, 5-foot-11 and blessed with great power, is a two-time quarterfinalist at three of the four majors -- the Australian Open being the exception. She hits a heavy serve and likes to rip her returns.

Both women are coming off gratifying first-round upsets that could jump-start a run. Kanepi took out No. 24 seed -- and former Australian Open finalist -- Dominika Cibulkova, while Puig beat former US Open champion Samantha Stosur. Which will prevail: the straight-ahead power of Kanepi or the more textured versatility of Puig?

No. 31 seed Pablo Cuevas vs. No. 45 Ryan Harrison (Harrison leads 1-0)

Harrison is a figure much like Donald Young. He appears to have been around forever, partly because of how quickly he made an impression on the pro tour. But like Young, Harrison has had a bumpy ride. He's still just 25, though, and is now entrenched solidly in the top 50 under the guidance of recently retired journeyman Michael Russell. This follows some four years of struggling to shed a triple-digit ranking that kept him from being sure he would be a direct entry into Grand Slam events.

Cuevas, a 32-year-old from Uruguay, is a late-blooming, clay-court expert who has won six tournaments in nine finals and cracked the top 20 briefly in 2015. Cuevas took out stylish Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny in the first round, while Harrison survived a five-set war with the toughest little guy in tennis, Dudi Sela.

You can expect Cuevas to bombard Harrison with the familiar barrage of heavy, topspin forehands. But Cuevas uses a one-handed backhand and often resorts to a nifty slice to change things up. Harrison's biggest weapon is his serve, and he'll have to use it expertly if he wants to keep Cuevas from taking control of rallies.

Harrison lost the Brisbane final to Kyrgios earlier this month and is rapidly approaching his career-high ranking of No. 40.

Upset Special

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, seeded No. 15 but gradually losing ground among the elites, is ripe for the taking, and young Denis Shapovalov already has one win over him (US Open, 2017).