Nick Kyrgios admits he feels pressure at every tournament he competes in but that he is able to keep things in perspective, even when playing on home soil in Australia.
The 22-year-old Aussie is the No. 3 seed in Brisbane this week, and opens his campaign against his compatriot Matthew Ebden on Wednesday.
Ranked 21 in the world, Kyrgios has been in search of a Grand Slam breakthrough ever since he stormed onto the scene with a shock win over world No. 1 Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon to reach the quarter-finals three and a half years ago.
An opportunity once again presents itself when the Australian Open comes around in two weeks’ time.
“Of course there’s pressure. I feel like there’s pressure on me wherever I go. I’m always expected to do well. But I know what you mean, coming to Australia we’re all obviously looking to do well in our back yard, but for me it’s just another week,” Kyrgios told reporters in Brisbane.
“I know you can have five, six terrible weeks and you can have one good week and it turns around your whole year. So you’ve got to keep things in perspective. If you don’t do well here you can’t let it affect your whole year.”
Kyrgios has spoken multiple times about how difficult it is being on the road all year round for the tennis, and that he feels homesick when he’s unable to fly back to Australia throughout the season to see his family.
He says Australian players are at a disadvantage because the tour only stops by the country in January before moving to other parts of the world.
“I don’t know why we don’t have more tournaments in Australia. I think people would be more than willing to come back here throughout the year, I’m not too sure. But for us in Australia, I was on the road for four months last year and that’s pretty tough, I want to spend time with my family but you can’t, you’ve got to stay on the road,” he said.
“We have three tournaments here I think, 250, 500 and a Grand Slam. And I think you look at guys from America and Europe, they have so many tournaments and I think for Australians we’re a bit disadvantaged in that way, being away from home for so long.”
While still only 22, some feel Kyrgios could have done more by now based on the immense talent he possesses. He reached two Grand Slam quarter-finals before hitting the age of 20 but hasn’t made that stage at a major since the 2015 Australian Open. He has collected three ATP titles though, over the past two seasons, and sounds motivated to do more in 2018.
Players in the so-called NextGen age bracket (21-and-under) have been making waves on tour with the likes of Denis Shapovalov and Andrey Rublev enjoying a solid North American hard-court swing last summer.
“I still know that I’m, in the scheme of things, pretty young. But I know that obviously guys are doing great things at my age as well,” said Kyrgios.
“I know that I’m getting older. I love seeing these young guys come through, I think they all got amazing games. Especially – watching Shapovalov play at Laver Cup, for me, he’s really good. Guys like (Frances) Tiafoe, Rublev, these guys have all got game and it’s exciting for me to see them put it together.”
Former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic is still in Dubai as was spotted wearing a bandage over his injured elbow that forced him to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi as well as this week’s Qatar Open.
Djokovic had told Sport360 last week that he was looking forward to beginning the new season “pain-free” but suffered a setback that forced him to delay the start to 2018.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion has made no public announcements regarding whether he will play the Australian Open in two weeks’ time or not but admitted his latest injury setback could force him to adjust his schedule.
His coach Radek Stepanek is with him here in Dubai, which is positive sign that Djokovic could be at least practicing.
Two days ago, world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua posted a photo of him and Djokovic with the Burj Al Arab hotel in the background.
A real humble brother, all the best next year 🎾🤙🏾 pic.twitter.com/I5ORntWYrF
— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) December 30, 2017
If Djokovic does end up playing the Australian Open, he would have to dust off some serious rust having not played a match since Wimbledon last July.
Madison Keys dealt with her tight opening round defeat to Johanna Konta at the Brisbane International with great perspective and lots of positivity after the pair put on an impressive show to start the new year.
In a first round clash between two players ranked No. 9 and No. 19 in the world, it was the higher-ranked Konta who came out on top 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a two-hour seven-minute battle.
“It was damn good tennis today so… I haven’t played a match in four months so I was like it’s a win for me,” said a smiling Keys, who is back to full health now after going through wrist surgery early last year.
“Obviously knew it was going to be a tough match. Played really well, she played better, not much that I can do about it, not that upset about it. I think if I played the way that I played, against most people today I probably would have won. She happened to be better, too good.”
Konta had not won a match since August and ended 2017 with five consecutive defeats while struggling with a left foot injury.
The 26-year-old Brit is pleased to put that all behind her as she started 2018 in fine fashion, under the guidance of her new coach Michael Joyce, who previously worked with Maria Sharapova.
“It feels good to come through a match like that especially in three sets and especially against someone like her but I never lost faith in my ability,” said Konta of her win over Keys.
“I think both of us were kind of violently pushed into not being rusty or does come out still in little areas, in 30-alls or love-30s. I feel it more personally with concentration levels.”
Keys, a runner-up at the US Open last September, is upbeat about her start to the season despite the loss.
“That match could have happened late in a Grand Slam or in the finals of another tournament, happened first round. Too good,” said the 22-year-old American.
“Honestly, I look back at last year, and I won five matches total up to Stanford and then I won Stanford. So who knows what I’m going to do. Winning a first round but playing really well, or losing it and playing really well… kind of feels the same right now.”
— WTA (@WTA) January 1, 2018
Konta next faces Croatia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, who was the runner-up at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai less than three weeks ago.