Update: On Monday, a little more than 24 hours ahead of his scheduled first-round match, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the Australian Open with a knee injury.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Nick Kyrgios is finally home.
He is in Australia, with his people and in the place he longs for during all those homesick months living out of a suitcase on the professional tennis road.
For months, he soaked up the sun and trained in Sydney. But he also squeezed in a bit of time, though never enough for his liking, on the black couch in his childhood home in Canberra, Australia’s quiet, rural capital, telling his mother how safe he feels while she drinks tea a few feet away in the kitchen. He could sleep in his old room, where his cherished collection of colorful basketball shoes lines the shelves. That is next to the room with hundreds of his trophies and plaques and dozens of his smashed rackets. His pet macaw is in an aviary out back. Mornings bring brisk, 12-kilometer walks with his father, his golden retriever King and his miniature Dachshund Quincy, up nearby Mount Majura.
He hit balls, and lifted weights, goofed around with and gave endless swag to the children at the tennis center in Lyneham where he got his start. Like many in Australia — and lots of other places these days — they worship their local folk hero, no matter how boorish and aggressive he can be in the heat of competition, or when a live microphone appears at his chin. Or maybe that’s why they do.
Now though, everything is suddenly different.
Last year, Kyrgios evolved from a temperamental talent with so much unrealized potential into the kind of transcendent showman that this supposedly genteel sport offers up every so often — the gifted bad boy who drives the tennis establishment mad but enthralls crowds in the late stages of the most important championships.
Whether the tennis establishment likes it or not, no one in the sport fills a stadium like Kyrgios these days. Even his doubles matches have become raucous, packed affairs. And as the Australian Open gets underway, Kyrgios is among the favorites to challenge the nine-time champion Novak Djokovic for his home slam, which may be the ultimate double-edged sword. That level of pressure and expectation has been kryptonite for Kyrgios before, his self-destructive psyche exploding at a crucial moment, producing his unique brand of irresistible tennis theater.
“It’s going to be a hard couple weeks, regardless of whether I win or lose, emotionally, mentally,” Kyrgios said in a pre-Christmas interview from his parents’ home. “I’m one of the players that has a scope lens on him all the time. Big target on my back.”
With all his recent success and notoriety, so much suddenly appears to be riding on Kyrgios. The game’s leaders see him as the rare player who can reach a new and younger audience. Fans raise their beers and bump chests as Kyrgios wins points with his signature trick shots through the legs and behind the…
Read More: Nick Kyrgios Is Coming for Tennis 2023-01-16 09:20:13