AFP / WILLIAM WEST
Nick Kyrgios, (L) Lleyton Hewitt (C) and Novak Djokovic watch the action during the “Tie Break Tens” tennis tournament in Melbourne
Defending champion Roger Federer sees temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios has a threat at the Australian Open – if he can keep his focus. The 19-time Grand Slam winner, who is coming off an extraordinary 2017 in which he won two Grand Slams, will be up against a depleted field when the first Grand Slam of the year begins at Melbourne Park on Monday, with Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori out injured.
Long-time rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have also been struggling in the lead-up, potentially leaving the door open to one of so-called “NextGen”. The volatile Kyrgios is one of them, winning the lead Brisbane International last weekend, beating another young gun, Grigor Dimitrov, along the way. Federer said his recent title was unnoticed. “He’s (Kyrgios) going through his things, whatever he needs to go through,” the Swiss told the Herald Sun newspaper Saturday. “But when he’s on, he’s really difficult to beat. “It seems like he’s doing the right things otherwise he would not be winning tournaments, especially in Brisbane because being able to cope with the pressure is not a simple thing.” While the 22-year-old Australian crowd-puller, seeded 17, has exceptional talent, he has often undermined his abilities with petulant outbursts directed at the umpire or fans. Federer acknowledged he was a work in progress. “Similar to my challenge, can you keep it up?” he said. “For me, it’s because of me getting older.” Federer added: “I think he’s incredibly talented.” Kyrgios, who made the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2015, will begin his 2018 campaign against Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva. The Swiss, seeded two, who starts his title defense against Aljaz Bedene, said he was feeling good and looking forward to the challenge. “I’m playing well and now it’s just about getting through the matches at the beginning of the tournament,” Federer said.
AFP / WILLIAM WEST