Mercurial Nick Kyrgios wants to keep an even keel as the pressure of home expectations weighs on him at this year’s Australian Open in Melbourne.
The tempestuous 22-year-old has the brilliance and talent to win his national Open, yet it is his brittle state of mind that oftens malfunctions to his detriment.
Roger Federer rates Kyrgios a threat to the established order in the year’s opening Grand Slam, but says the volatile Australian is a work in progress.
“When he’s on, he’s on and he’s really difficult to beat... for him it’s day to day and then week by week, can you keep it up?” Federer said this week.
“For him it’s maybe in his mind and his body because he still needs to work much more than he currently is.”
Kyrgios won his first home ATP Tour title at the Brisbane International and is looking to go further than a quarter-final appearance in Melbourne three years ago.
He is facing Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva on his favourite Hisense Arena court in Monday’s first round and could face world number three Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round, but he is taking it all in his stride.
“I’d like to do well. I’m not going to say quarter-finals, semi-finals, anything like that. I just want to take it one round at a time,” Kyrgios said ahead of his fifth Australian Open campaign.
“Everyone started the year hungry. They can play great quality tennis. I don’t want to look ahead at all. I want to take care of business one round at a time.”
Kyrgios’s mental strength and attitude always come up in the conversation about his title chances, but he says he wants to keep things at an even keel.
“I think last year there were periods where I was really good and really bad,” he said.
‘I feel relaxed’
“But at the end of the day I just need to know it’s a long year. I can’t expend too much energy on other things.
“I want to kind of ride the highs, not as high as I usually do. If I lose a match, at the end of the day it’s a tennis match.
“I kind of want to keep it even-keeled throughout the whole year rather than being such a rollercoaster ride. I guess right now that’s what I’m doing.”
Kyrgios said he feels better placed to make a deep run at this year’s Australian Open.
“I probably feel a bit better this time around. I feel relaxed,” he said.
“Obviously, winning a tournament before you play a Grand Slam always helps.”
Kyrgios said he had no injury problems heading into the tournament.
“Yeah, my knee feel good. My physio flew in, so I’ve had him for the last two, three days. I’ve had the luxury of getting treated in my room at my hotel,” he said.
“Haven’t been spending too much time around the courts. I’ve been kind of doing my practice, getting out of here, and just relaxing. So it’s been good.”
Kyrgios said he has the physical resilience to put together the best-of-five-set matches potentially over the two weeks.
“I feel very confident in best-of-five matches. I’ve played a lot of them now,” he said.