MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Nick Kyrgios is in the unusual position of being Australia’s number four in the men’s draw at Melbourne Park this year but the 23-year-old thinks he has found at least some of the answers to the questions that have held back his career.
Part of the reason for his lowly spot in the ranks of the home hopefuls for the Australian Open is the improvement in the fortunes of his compatriots with Alex de Minaur (29), John Millman (38) and Matthew Ebden (47) all now in the top 50.
The other side of the equation is Kyrgios’s drop from 17th to 51st in the world over a 2018 season which started in triumph at the Brisbane International but petered out with early exits, injuries and accusations that he was not trying in some matches.
It was a familiar narrative that continues to exasperate his compatriots but Kyrgios said some “personal stuff” off court had been behind his decline on it.
“I was in some really bad places,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
“Right now I feel like I’m in a good spot mentally. Whatever happens, happens.
“I’m not going to worry about anything. If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose. Literally, I want to be waking up, be excited to go on court. Last year I was not in that mind frame.”
With the career of another talent controversialist Bernard Tomic now apparently in terminal decline, Australians are increasingly investing their hopes in teenager de Minaur and Ash Barty, who both play finals in Sydney on Saturday.
Neither can compete with Kyrgios in terms of pure natural talent and whatever questions there are about his desire to play the game, the former Wimbledon and Australian Open quarter-finalist still has no doubts about his own potential.
“When someone has success my age or younger than me, I am not at all the type to be like jealous or anything like that,” he said when asked about the rise of Alexander Zverev.
“For me, I know what I’m capable of. I’ve beaten the big four.
“We all want to have success. But I know I have to just take care of every day. I was battling other things than on court. I need to get myself right, not worry about what anyone else is doing.”
With low rankings come better opponents in the early rounds at Grand Slams, though, and Kyrgios’s hopes of starting 2019 with a bang suffered a blow on Thursday when he was paired with Canadian former world number three Milos Raonic.
Kyrgios, though, thinks such a tough first-round assignment might work to his advantage.
“I’m very excited just to be out here in the Aussie summer in front of the home crowd, to play a tough opponent,” he said.
“I can see it as a good thing. I have to be locked in from the get-go.”
Kyrgios also said that if he could “get right physically and mentally” this year he could “realistically” get into the top 10 in the world.
That said, he did concede that he had not quite figured it all out yet.
“I’m only 23,” he concluded. “I don’t have all the answers. I’m trying hard to every day enjoy myself, try and just do the right things. I’m trying to be better every day, literally.”
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty