Kyr­gios calm ahead of his ‘home’ event

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - RACING -

AN up­beat but calm Nick Kyr­gios heads into the Australian Open feel­ing con­fi­dent about his men­tal game and keen to keep a level head through the sea­son af­ter a “roller-coaster” ride in 2017.

The 22-year-old Australian clinched his fourth ti­tle at the lead-up Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional, eas­ing con­cerns over a trou­ble­some hip while rais­ing ex­cite­ment lev­els about his prospects at his home grand slam.

It has been an en­cour­ag­ing start for Kyr­gios, who has al­ways strug­gled to con­trol his emo­tions while wield­ing one of the most dev­as­tat­ing games on the ATP Tour.

Af­ter claim­ing three ti­tles in an en­cour­ag­ing 2016, last sea­son had its mo­ments, and he showed im­pres­sive form dur­ing the ‘Sun­shine Swing’ in North Amer­ica, beat­ing No­vak Djokovic twice and push­ing Roger Fed­erer to the wall in a clas­sic fi­nal at the Mas­ters 1000 tour­na­ment in Mi­ami.

But the year was largely de­flat­ing, as he was bun­dled out early from the grand slams while bat­tling hip prob­lems through most of them.

“I think last year there were pe­ri­ods where I was re­ally good and re­ally bad,” he said yes­ter­day.

“I just need to know it’s a long year. I can’t ex­pend too much en­ergy, you know, on other things.

“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.”

Of­ten in hot wa­ter for his on-court con­duct and some­times abra­sive with his of­f­court de­meanour, Kyr­gios has po­larised home fans raised on a diet of never-say-die grand slam cham­pi­ons like Lley­ton He­witt and Pat Rafter.

Sec­tions of the Mel­bourne Park crowd jeered him as he suf­fered a melt­down to lose to An­dreas Seppi in five sets in the sec­ond round last year.

Two years be­fore they were chant­ing his name in adu­la­tion when he downed the Ital­ian to reach the quar­ter-fi­nals.

Pun­dits have tipped 17th seed Kyr­gios, who opens against un­her­alded Brazil­ian Roge­rio Du­tra Silva, to go deep in this tour­na­ment but the Australian trot­ted out the well-worn cliche of “one game at a time.”

“I’d like to do well. I’m not go­ing to say quar­ter-fi­nals, semi-fi­nals, any­thing like that,” he said.

“Ev­ery­one started the year hun­gry. They can play great qual­ity ten­nis. I don’t want to look ahead at all.”

Mean­while Roberto Bautista Agut con­tin­ued to shine in New Zealand when the Spa­niard won his sec­ond Auckland Clas­sic ti­tle with a 6-1 4-6 7-5 vic­tory over sec­ond seed Juan Martin del Potro.

The fifth seed, who clinched the ti­tle in 2016 but was un­able to de­fend it last year due to ill­ness, romped through the first set in 31 min­utes as he broke his Ar­gen­tine op­po­nent three times and pro­duced nu­mer­ous fore­hand win­ners.

The sec­ond set went on serve with nei­ther able to get a break point op­por­tu­nity un­til the 10th game, which Del Potro seized upon to send the match into a de­cider when Bautista Agut hit a back­hand into the net af­ter a cagey base­line rally.

Nei­ther player of­fered up many op­por­tu­ni­ties in the third set un­til the 11th game, when the Spa­niard con­verted on the sec­ond of his break points to take a 6-5 lead and then held serve to triumph in a lit­tle more than two hours.

At the Australian Open, Bautista Agut will play com­pa­triot Fer­nando Ver­dasco in the first round, while Del Potro takes on Amer­i­can prospect Frances Ti­afoe. – Reuters

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