Kyrgios set for Cincinnati rematch at Open

Darren Walton and Callum Godde
Nick Kyrgios is through to the third round of the Australian Open after beating Gilles Simon

Given his new-found focus, it's unlikely Nick Kyrgios's return showdown with Karen Khachanov at the Australian Open on Saturday will be as dramatic as their last explosive episode.

But it could be equally as competitive as Khachanov's 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 win over Kyrgios in Cincinnati last August.

"Very aggressive player. He's difficult to play against. He's got a big serve, big forehand, looks to dictate," Kyrgios said of Russia's 16th seed who soared to No.8 in the world at one point last year.

Kyrgios's loss to Khachanov proved somewhat of a turning point in the Australian's turbulent career.

The result was overshadowed by Kyrgios's extraordinary meltdown in which he branded respected Irish umpire Fergus Murphy a "potato" and a "f***ing tool" in an outburst that triggered an ATP investigation into the hot-head's behaviour.

Later accusing the ATP of being "corrupt" before withdrawing the allegation and apologising, Kyrgios was hit with a 16-week suspended ban that is still hanging over his head.

The 24-year-old admitted during the season-opening ATP Cup to be "trying" to be better because "I'm on probation".

He's barely put a foot out of line since, even apologising for firing a few verbal tirades at his camp and Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt during Thursday night's 6-2 6-4 4-6 7-5 second-round victory over Gilles Simon.

"I was being a bit of a d***head to them," Kyrgios said.

"I apologised as soon as I went back into the locker room. They don't deserve that. They do a lot of things for me on and off the court.

"It's not acceptable from me."

Kyrgios knew he had to rein in his on-court antics that threatened to derail another grand slam campaign.

The Australian No.2 had been coasting to a routine win after building a two-set and 4-2 lead before blowing a gasket after successive double-faults handing Simon a lifeline back into the match.

"I just put my head down," he said.

"I lost my way a little bit in the third set. I put my head down, I told myself 'just cut the bulls*** and just get to work'.

"I got the break at five-all. It was a good feeling to get through that."

Should he keep his head and find a way past Khachenov, who will be backing up from a gruelling five-set super-tiebreak win over Mikael Ymer, Kyrgios will likely confront world No.1 Rafael Nadal in a Monday public holiday blockbuster at Melbourne Park.