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15 April 2024

'Human headline' Kyrgios faces Aussie Open test

Pic: AFP


Nick Kyrgios is often associated with tantrums and even tanking, but he has a chance to create some positive headlines by making a deep run at the Australian Open.

The antics of Kyrgios, who is returning from a ban for "lack of best efforts" during a notorious match in Shanghai, have doused expectations of a title run at his home Grand Slam.

But despite his discipline problems, Kyrgios, dubbed a "human headline" by Australian media, is coming off his best year yet when he won three titles and broke into the top 15.

Kyrgios has shown a liking for Melbourne Park where he reached the quarter-finals in 2015, equalling his best Grand Slam performance yet.

And the 21-year-old says he has benefited from his sessions with a psychologist, which he agreed to in return for a shorter ban after his Shanghai meltdown.

"Obviously I'm not going to tell you what we talk about, but I think it's helping me for sure," the world number 14 said before this month's Hopman Cup in Perth.

"I'm just trying to learn a bit more about myself and obviously just trying to figure out ways to enjoy the sport a little bit more and just enjoy the grind of it."

The pressures of tennis took their toll in Shanghai, when Kyrgios lost points on purpose and argued with fans during his second-round defeat to Mischa Zverev.

The incident in October came just days after Kyrgios had lifted the third trophy of his career at the Japan Open in Tokyo.

"I needed to shut down, really, after a very long and tough year," he said. "I'm still learning about myself and things like (scheduling)."

Basketball injury

Kyrgios's return at the exhibition-level Hopman Cup was not without incident and he appeared hampered by a left knee injury which he picked up playing basketball.

In his match against America's Jack Sock, Kyrgios moved listlessly and inexplicably volleyed a Sock shot which was sailing out from well behind the baseline, dumping his forehand into the net.

But Kyrgios, who remains without a coach, has played down concerns about his injury and said his 6-2, 6-2 defeat to Sock would have no bearing on the Australian Open.

"I don't think losing in an exhibition Hopman Cup is going to hinder my performance too much for the Australian Open," he said.

"I'm not the type of guys who needs plenty of matches before a Grand Slam."

Apart from his form and fitness, the biggest question for Kyrgios is whether he can control his combustible temperament in the heated atmosphere of Melbourne Park.

Opponents are wary of his rocket serve and forehand but they also know that fidgety Kyrgios is easily distracted and is prone to losing his cool.

It does not augur well for Kyrgios's bid to become the Australian Open's first home-grown champion since Mark Edmondson in 1976.

He said: "Being the focal point brings added attention and pressure.

"But I'm not going to knock that. It's a positive thing, and it means I've achieved a position where people care."