Nick Kyrgios is taking a relaxed approach to his title defence in Brisbane, admitting he feels rusty for not spending much time on court during the offseason, and toyed with his home press telling them he “probably wouldn’t play for the rest of the year” if he wins the Australian Open.
The 23-year-old Aussie, who slipped to 35 in the world after a tough 2018 that saw him battle elbow and hip injuries, said he intends to play a “light schedule” in 2019 in an attempt to avoid home sickness while on the road.
The Canberra-native has been outspoken about his mental struggles in the past, and how he lacks motivation when he spends several months traveling away from Australia for tournaments.
In the build-up to the Brisbane International (kicks off on Sunday), Kyrgios spent two days in the hospital treating a spider bite on his foot. The bite caused his foot to be swollen and prevented him from hitting the last couple of days.
“When I got home I didn’t touch a racquet for a month,” Kyrgios told reporters in Brisbane when asked about his offseason and whether he spent much time hitting on court.
“Not at all. I spent a lot of time in the gym, I was playing a lot of basketball, just being home. I feel like the offseason for me is not about getting on court and trying to improve or get better. I want to completely step away from the game and like really just enjoy my time at home. I play enough tennis during the year, I’m sick of bit by the time I get home. So the last thing I want to do is go out there and hit more balls.
“I’ll probably be rusty. I wouldn’t be surprised if I go out there and hit like 30 unforced errors, doesn’t matter to me.
“I haven’t really been on court that much. I’m going to go out there today and maybe hit for 10, 15 minutes, see how the foot feels. I haven’t really been thinking about it too much.”
Lemme troll some more 🤣 https://t.co/MrC8K0f7Zo
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) December 29, 2018
While all players spend at least two to three weeks of their offseason going through gruelling training blocks and making improvements to their game, Kyrgios sees it differently.
“I don’t know if it’s an outlook, I just don’t want to play when I’m sat home with my family,” he states.
Kyrgios contested 38 matches across 14 events (plus one Davis Cup tie) in an injury-plagued 2018 and it sounds like he plans on playing less in 2019.
“I’m going to play a very, very light schedule this year,” he said.
Asked about his goals for the new season, Kyrgios added: “Not much to be honest. Have a light schedule, when I play, enjoy playing and go out there just compete. I haven’t really set any goals or anything like that.
“I’m not sure the exact number [of tournaments I’ll play], but if I was to win Aus Open or something, I probably wouldn’t play for the rest of the year.”
That last remark was an obvious exaggeration, meant to lure reporters into taking his statements seriously.
The former world No. 13 did confirm though that his physical problems are behind him for now.
“Obviously I’ve dealt with a couple of injuries last season. I think being home just solved all my problems really. I was away from home for like five and a half months. I don’t really want to ever do that again. I was just looking forward to going home. I was in the gym a lot, I feel good. The elbow is feeling good.
“I love just being in Canberra and being with my family, being with my friends. It was tough, it was more just mentally. I think just being away from home was the toughest it. Battling injuries, going to tournaments and not even playing was tough. But again, they’re not really big problems, there are a lot more important things.”
Kyrgios’ first round in Brisbane is a rematch of last year’s final against American Ryan Harrison.
He remains coachless but was working with his strength and conditioning coach Ashcon Rezazadeh in Canberra during the offseason, and is accompanied by the Brit in Brisbane this week.
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Rafael Nadal is satisfied with his first match back after undergoing ankle surgery last month but admits he will have to pull out of his third-place play-off in Abu Dhabi to avoid pushing his body too much too soon.
With the goal of being fit for the Australian Open in mind, Nadal will take the next two days off after losing a tight three-setter 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to Kevin Anderson at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the UAE capital on Friday.
The Spaniard, who hadn’t played a match since retiring from his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in September due to a knee injury, was happy with how he was able to play a competitive clash against the sixth-ranked Anderson, but concedes that he spent more time on court than initially anticipated and it’s too early for him to play back-to-back matches against top players.
Nadal only got back to training two weeks ago in preparation for the new season and is now scheduled to kick off his 2019 in Brisbane next week.
“When you are out since long time ago, I had the surgery a little over a month ago, it’s normal that I have some pains. Being honest, I’m satisfied the way I was playing tennis. I am more or less satisfied with how the body held,” Nadal said after his loss to Anderson.
“Tough match, three-set match, I didn’t play sets before here. And at the same time, I have normal pains after a long time without playing, so probably tomorrow I will not play.
“I will take a couple of days off. The season just started for me, it was a goal to be here, I tried hard to be here after surgery not too long ago, I was not sure if I will have the chance to start the season, and I did.
“Last year I missed this event, last moment, I didn’t want to miss it again. But, at some point I need to take a decision and I spent more time on court than what I thought. It’s not the moment for me to make a step back, it’s the moment to make a step forward, the match of today is a step forward for me, that’s the main thing.
“I suffered a lot in terms of injury. I don’t want to suffer more, I want to make the things the right way, step by step and that’s it. My goal is try to be ready for the Australian Open and I think I’m on the way to make that happen but of course I can’t take a lot of risk being the first match after a lot of months and especially after the surgery.”
Asked if he was still planning on playing Brisbane, Nadal said: “I’m booked Brisbane. My goal is to be there and play there. Being honest, that’s my plan.”
In the match against Anderson, Nadal showcased an aggressive game on the fast courts of Abu Dhabi, which meant he hit a few uncharacteristic errors in the decider.
He also sported a new service motion which Anderson spotted early on in the match.
“I saw that pretty much straightaway in the warm-ups. The take back looks a little bit different. I’ve seen him playing a lot throughout the years and he’s sort of changed that motion a few times. Even his groundies look different now than they did 13 or 14 years ago when he first came out. He’s had a bit of time off, away, so sometimes you make a few adjustments. It’ll be interesting to see how that might help his serve throughout this coming season.”
Nadal was due to face Karen Khachanov on Saturday in Abu Dhabi after the young Russian lost to an impressive Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 on Friday.
Earlier in the day, Chung Hyeon defeated Dominic Thiem in the fifth-place play-off.
Serena Williams joked that she has been training all offseason just to be ready for her mixed doubles showdown against Roger Federer at the Hopman Cup in Perth next week as the American returns to Western Australia for the first time since 2016.
Williams, who lost an exhibition match to her sister Venus at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, is teaming with her compatriot Frances Tiafoe to represent USA in the mixed team competition.
The highly-anticipated clash between USA and Switzerland that will pit Williams and Federer against one another will take place on New Year’s Day.
“I’m excited to go to Perth, it’s been a while since I’ve been there. I’m excited to be able to get back. You know I’ve been training offseason to be ready for Roger, so not sure how I’m going to do but we’ll see,” said Williams with a laugh.
Federer and his team-mate Belinda Bencic won last January’s Hopman Cup and will be back in Perth to try and defend their title. Federer admits squaring off against Williams is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of match.
“We’ll probably play it down a little bit and say it’s not that big of a deal for us, it’s just another tennis match, but it really isn’t because it’s probably going to happen once and never again,” he said.
“That’s why I hope we’re both going to be injury-free when that day comes around.”