Nick Kyrgios barely touched a racquet during the pre-season, was bitten by a spider at the end of December and has been handed one of the toughest first round opponents in the main draw, but it probably doesn’t faze him.
Since ending his 2018 campaign in Moscow last October, Kyrgios hardly spent any time on the court over between seasons, preferring to play basketball over tennis.
In fact, he recently said he spent as little as two days on the practice court during the break.
And now, after a low intensity exhibition match against compatriot Bernard Tomic at Kooyong and an hour long clash against Rafael Nadal in Sydney, the 23-year-old will face world No. 17 Milos Raonic in the opening round of the Australian Open.
It doesn’t get much tougher than that in the first round of a major.
After spending the best part of two years inside the top-20, Kyrgios gradually tumbled last year, arriving in Melbourne with a ranking of No. 51 — the lowest he has been since January, 2015.
For a player who looked capable of anything when he reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon at just 19, he may never fulfil his potential.
American tennis legend John McEnroe has revealed he recently made contact with the enigmatic star because he is concerned about Kyrgios’ mental state.
“I reached out to Nick lately because I worry about him. I like him as a person and I want to see him enjoy this. To not be tortured,” McEnroe told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The problem for Nick is there is a lot of scar tissue that builds up.
“The first thing, to me, is to make sure he can compete as hard as he can every time. He is nowhere near that. I don’t know the reasons. He might’ve felt injured. He might’ve felt like he had a spider bite.”
The seven-time Grand Slam champion thinks time is running out for Kyrgios to learn how to properly apply himself and fulfil his potential.
“The good thing for Nick would be, before it’s too late, to get some perspective. For him to realise he’s been blessed with some extraordinary talent,” McEnroe said.
“He clearly has mixed emotions with it and, hopefully, there’s the right set of people around him to make him realise that he will have more regrets if he doesn’t embrace it.
“I understand the battles he has in terms of the love-hate relationship dealing with the expectations and pressures that he has. But he’s going to feel worse about it if he doesn’t try to be the best he can be. He will feel worse about that if he doesn’t end up being the player he thought he was.
“If he truly doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t do it, because it will get worse if he doesn’t manage to enjoy it. I mean, how many Roger Federers are there out there who almost love it all the time?”
Kyrgios fell to former world No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open, which equalled his best result in a Grand Slam since he made the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2015.
But with Canadian star Raonic in the first round, we might see very little of Kyrgios this summer.