Expectation no longer the enemy as Kyrgios prepares for 2018

Nick Kyrgios says he’s happy to carry the load as the homegrown men’s star this summer but insists he won’t let any unexpected hiccups derail his year as he drives for a spot in the top 10.

The 22-year-old has given his troublesome hip the green light and will play his first match of the New Year at the Brisbane International in coming days against compatriot Matt Ebden, who completed a 6-3 6-2 first round win over Frances Tiafoe.

???With Andy Murray making his return after a long injury lay-off and Rafael Nadal withdrawing due to a knee complaint, Kyrgios gets the chance to make the perfect start to the year on a court where he fired in 2017 in the Davis Cup tie against the United States.

Any good performance in Queensland would only add to the expectation as he travels to Melbourne to lead the men’s charge at the n Open. Not that long ago, Kyrgios may have baulked at the extra attention. Now, he accepts it as part of the game and his role as the top-ranked domestic male player.

Tennis can, and regularly does, produce upsets and while Kyrgios still has some physical issues to deal with as he plots his return to action, if one, or both, were to sour his run in Melbourne, he won’t be stressing about it.

“Yeah, of course, it’s pressure. I feel like there’s pressure on me wherever I go. You know, I’m always expected to do well,” Kyrgios said.

“But, yeah, I mean, I know what you mean. Coming to , we all obviously want to do well in our back yard … but for me it’s just another week. I know you can have five, six terrible weeks and you can have one good week and it turns around your whole year.

“So you got to keep things in perspective. If you don’t do well here, you can’t let it affect the rest of the year.”

Perspective has helped Kyrgios mature rapidly over the past 12 months, with a hospital visit to sick children in France inspiring him to set up the NK Foundation, aimed at providing sporting opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

He also now finds himself as a senior enough player in the game to tap into its newsworthy issues, with the workload of players a simmering topic as more and more of the game’s elite deal with injury interruption.

Already, Murray has signalled a reduction in his 2018 schedule, while Kyrgios agrees the drain on the body can be punishing and the season too long. He wants the tour to begin later and perhaps even feature more n events, which he believes would be well patronised by players.

“I don’t know why we don’t,” he said. “I think people would be more than willing to come back [and play] here throughout the year.

“For us in – I was on the road for four months last year – that’s pretty tough when I want to spend time with my family.

“We have three tournaments here and you look at the guys from America and in Europe who have so many tournaments and as ns I think we’re a bit disadvantaged being away for so long.”

Kyrgios didn’t make it past the second round of a Grand Slam in 2017 and his path in the Brisbane event won’t be easy, with Ebden impressing in his opener and ready to make his mark against a high-profile target.

The 30-year-old was ranked 699 in the world just a year ago but now meets Kyrgios from the 76th ranking spot.

“For sure I’m a better player, whether on not that shows in rankings yet is to be seen,” he said. “Nearing the end of my 20s, you start thinking this isn’t for ever … but I know the level I can play at, you don’t lose that, it’s not a fluke.

“I think I can do a lot better than I’ve done in the past and that’s what motivated me to get back up again.”

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