Melbourne (AFP) – Nick Kyrgios believes the inclusive culture of the Davis Cup team has steeled his game as he zeroes in on a deep run at the Australian Open.
The normally combustible Australian has found a new sense of inner calm as he prepares for a fourth round showdown with world No.3 Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday.
The 22-year-old won one of the big matches of his stormy career when he closed out three tiebreakers over four sets to beat childhood idol and former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Friday’s third round.
With changing public perceptions of one of the favourite whipping boys of Australian sport, Kyrgios has shown signs of greater composure in his matches in Melbourne this week.
He puts it largely down to the all-embracing culture of playing for Australia’s Davis Cup team under captain Lleyton Hewitt.
“Last year after the Australian Open I was really struggling mentally,” Kyrgios said after Friday’s victory.
“He (Hewitt) called me up and said, ‘we would love to have you in Davis Cup’. Ever since then, the culture has been amazing. It’s been huge for me.”
Kyrgios said he was now ready physically and mentally to deal with the pressure matches at the Australian Open.
“I made the quarter-finals here three years ago. I feel like I’m making improvements,” he said.
“The last couple years I feel like I haven’t been physically ready to play these long matches and back it up.
“I did a really good off-season this year. I trained with Lleyton and the guys in Melbourne for two weeks.
“Physically, I feel really good. Just gives me confidence in my game. I know mentally I’m a lot better, as well.”
Ranked 17 and likely to go higher after this Grand Slam, he showed the benefits when he won his first home ATP Tour title at the lead-up Brisbane International this month — beating Dimitrov along the way.
Kyrgios, who has been a polarising figure in a nation where tennis greats are revered, said he hasn’t changed his ways despite the shifting public perceptions about him.
“It doesn’t worry me at all. It’s not something I wake up and I’m like, ‘Look, today I’m going to try to change the perception’,” he said.
“I’ve always played the same way. Nothing has changed. I’ve always been emotional. I showed emotion out there tonight.
“I feel like I’ve always been a caring person. I guess it’s just how you guys (media) perceive it.”