Australian Open home hope Nick Kyrgios declared on Saturday that he could break into the world’s top 10 if he can get “right physically and mentally”.
But first the world number 51 will need to get past the “unbelievably tough” Canadian 16th seed Milos Raonic in a blockbuster first-round encounter when the year’s opening Grand Slam begins on Monday.
Kyrgios rose to a career-high 13th in 2016, but has steadily slipped down the pecking order since.
He cut short last season in October after an elbow injury, admitted he was working on mental health issues and then suffered a spider bite over Christmas.
But he was in an upbeat mood as he spoke to reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday ahead of squaring off against the former world number three.
“If I get right physically and mentally... realistically I could be top 10. That’s a fact,” said Kyrgios.
“Right now I’m not even thinking about that. I want to just enjoy my time in Australia, the Aussie summer. I want to play good tennis and be happy. That’s the main thing.”
Kyrgios and Raonic have met six times, with the series level at 3-3. Only one of those encounters was on hard courts, at Miami in 2016, and it was the Australian who won in straight sets.
They have met twice in Grand Slams, both times at Wimbledon, and again they are level 1-1.
“Yeah, obviously Milos is a tough player. We’ve played each other a couple times at Grand Slams,” said the Australian.
“We’ve played each other at Masters events, tour events. We both know each other’s games fairly well. We know what’s coming.”
In what will likely shape up as a big-hitting battle of two of the most powerful servers on tour, Kyrgios acknowledged he would need to be on his game right from the first point.
“It’s going to be incredibly tough. I have to be locked in from the get-go,” said Kyrgios. “Obviously I’ve got to take care of my service games. I may not even get a look on his serve.
“It’s tough. He’s an unbelievable player. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Kyrgios has had his fair share of run-ins with umpires over the years, but said he was trying to be more mature.
“I feel like you think I’m really wise,” he said in response to a question about his temperament.
“I’m only 23. I don’t have all the answers. I’m trying hard to every day enjoy myself, try and just do the right things,” he smiled. “I’m trying to be better every day literally. I’m not, like, 40. I don’t have all the answers.”