Nick Kyrgios, Brisbane International champion 2018
After a hard fought battle, Kyrgios has taken home the 2018 Brisbane International trophy.
He may be contesting just his 19th Grand Slam tournament, but Nick Kyrgios is starting to feel like an old hand at the majors as he bids to put his rollercoaster days behind him in 2018.
The Australian No.1, seeded No.17 at Melbourne Park and scheduled to face Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva in the first round, arrives off the back of winning his first ATP title on home soil after beating Ryan Harrison in the Brisbane International final – the ideal springboard for his Australian Open preparations, both for his game and his head.
“I overcame some adversity in that tournament, coming from a set down a couple of times,” Kyrgios said. “Just the way I conducted myself in my matches, I think that's the main improvement, and that's what I was pretty happy with at the end of the day.”
Zen to the point of dispassionate in Queensland – “I love playing in front of you guys, even though sometimes it may not seem that way,” he said during the trophy ceremony – Kyrgios was in a relaxed mood during his pre-tournament press conference, interjecting thoughtful responses with a little humour. Asked about his own teenage breakthrough on the day 18-year-old Alex De Minaur plays his first ATP final in Sydney, he was both sage and self-deprecating.
“It happened for me pretty quickly,” Kyrgios recalls following his 2014 run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals that announced his arrival on the international stage. “I mean, I felt a lot of pressure every time after that. I felt a lot of pressure every time I went out on the court.
“Then [Andy] Murray just destroyed me in Toronto,” he added with a smile. “That kind of brought me back down to life.”
De Minaur’s rise, coupled with the return of Thanasi Kokkinakis and sterling runs by Ash Barty and Daria Gavrilova in Sydney, means hopes are high that one of Australia’s youngsters might be primed to break through this month at Melbourne Park. None is better placed than Kyrgios, contesting his fifth Australian Open main draw – still young for an elder statesman.
“I don't feel old,” said the 22-year-old. “I know that obviously it's time to mature. I feel like I am maturing a lot. Yeah, I mean, it's good to see these young guys. I remember feeling like that, when I had no pressure going out there and beating guys.
“I remember when I was, like, 19, I played in Grand Slams. I would kind of be hanging around all day in the cafe. I would always bring two bags in. But now it's just my tennis bag. I get in and out. I definitely feel like I've been used to this sort of level for a long time now.”
Not just the level, but the pressure experienced by the small coterie of players who carry their nation’s hopes at a home major. Kyrgios insists that while the expectation may be more intense in Melbourne, it is par for the course given his growing reputation in the game, hence the commitment to calm.
“I feel for me there's pressure wherever I go. I'm expected to win a lot of matches. No matter if I'm here, Wimbledon, US Open, it's the same for me,” said Kyrgios, an Australian Open quarterfinalist in 2015.
“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.
“Over the last couple days, just been focusing on myself, my practice sessions. Obviously feeling pretty good after Brisbane. I probably feel a bit better this time around – I feel relaxed. Obviously winning a tournament before you play a Grand Slam always helps.”