By his own admission, 2017 wasn’t as successful a year as Nick Kyrgios would have liked. According to the man himself, “It’s been a rollercoaster on and off the court.”
The highs have included impressive victories against some of the world’s top ranked players including Novak Djokovic (twice) and Rafa Nadal in Cincinatti. He also made the final of the China Open which he lost to Nadal, and enjoyed a strong Davis Cup campaign.
The lows on the court have included his struggles in the Grand Slam tournaments (including last year’s Australian Open), and an injury curtailed season. Whilst off the court, he suffered the loss of his Grandfather in April.
However if the start of 2018 is anything to go by, the 22-year-old Kyrgios stands a good chance of achieving his stated goal of breaking into the Top 10 or Top 5 ATP ranked players.
Last week he won the Brisbane Open, scoring his first ever ATP title on home soil, a win which elevated his ranking into the Top 20 with a ranking of 17.
With the Australian Open due to start on Monday, some pundits are rating Kyrgios as an outside chance of becoming the first Australian since Mark Edmondson in 1976, to lift the coveted Men’s Singles trophy. Regardless of whether he wins the trophy or not, he and his fans will be hoping for something that eluded him in 2017, a deep run in a demanding Grand Slam event.
It certainly appears that Kyrgios is physically in better shape than he was at this stage last year, having undergone a solid preparation alongside his coach and confidante Matt Reid.
Also working in Kyrgios’s favour is the that he’ll have the crowd cheering him on, he’ll have his family with him, and a number of established higher ranked rivals are out of the tournament or going into the Open under an injury cloud. Andy Murray has withdrawn to have hip surgery, Novak Djokovic is coming back from a long injury lay-off (elbow), as is former Open winner Stan Wawrinka, whilst Nadal’s knee continues to bother him.
And what of Kyrgios’s frame of mind? The mercurial Kyrgios has in the past been the victim of his own state of mind, given to temper outbursts, and performances which have led to media criticism that he lacks motivation for the game.
Kyrgios himself has given some insight into his mental state as a competitor and his sometimes testy relationship with the media. Speaking on Playersvoice.com.au, Kyrgios said: “There is a constant tug-of-war between the competitor within me wanting to win, win, win and the human in me wanting to live a normal life with my family away from the public glare.”
He also feels that negative media reports adversely affect his motivation for tennis.
“I am a very private person. I don’t like people knowing things about me and being all up in my business. I naturally have a bit of a chip on my shoulder, so I don’t like it when people are saying things that aren’t true about me. I completely hate having a completely public life. I really don’t like it at all,” he said.
“I have read over time that I am arrogant, disrespectful and tennis is my be-all-and-end-all. None of this is even close to the truth and anyone who has spent time with me would tell you the same.
“I find this stuff harder to deal with as time goes on. When I first started on the tour, I didn’t expect to get any media. Now, with a bit of perspective and context, I see it for what it really is. And I don’t like it at all.”
However, this year, Tennis fans may see Kyrgios playing with a new-found focus and purpose. The 22-year-old and his family have started up the NK Foundation, aimed at giving underprivileged children the opportunity to play sport.
As Kyrgios explains on Playersvoice.com.au, “A couple of years ago I had a vision: to build a facility for disadvantaged and underprivileged kids where they could hang out, be safe and feel like they were part of a family. There’d be tennis courts and basketball courts and a gym and an oval to kick the footy. There’d be things to eat and beds to sleep in. A few months ago, I discussed this with my mum Norlaila and my brother Christos. It’s all I’ve been thinking about outside of tennis since then. When I’m not playing, training or travelling, I’m working on this,” he revealed.
“We are currently in the process of scoping out land in Melbourne and looking for organisations and businesses to partner with us. This dream is going to become a reality.
“For the first time, I feel like there is a reason for me to be doing what I’m doing. Tennis is a great life – we’re well paid and the perks are pretty good – but it can feel empty if you’re just doing it for the money.
“I know what it’s all for now. You’ve probably heard me say a few times over the years that I don’t want tennis badly enough. But when I’m working on the NK Foundation and our Melbourne facility, I cast my mind forward to all the disadvantaged kids I’ll be helping. I’m playing for them now.”