Australian Open boss Craig Tiley is hoping Nick Kyrgios can find his groove at the upcoming Australian Open, but admits the 'expectation' of a successful campaign would be a heavy burden to bear. Kyrgios will enter the season opening grand slam with many hoping he can carry over his sensational play from this season, in which he made his first grand slam final.
The ever-mercurial Kyrgios was bundled out of last year's Australian Open after and early but highly entertaining clash with Daniil Medvedev, before going on to win the men's doubles alongside fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis. It would be the start of his best season, which not only included the Wimbledon final, but also a strong run at the US Open.
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With expectations perhaps higher now than ever before for Kyrgios at his home grand slam, Tiley said he was hopeful the 27-year-old could once again channel the enjoyment of the game that propelled him to last year's successes. Doing so, he conceded, would be easier said than done.
Tiley said the pressure surrounding Ash Barty when she won the 2022 Australian Open was partly what made it such a compelling victory. Barty has admitted in the past that the pressure of playing at home can become a distraction, but Tiley was optimistic there was potential for Kyrgios to pull off something special.
"Playing at home in front of your home crowd and expected to win - that's why I think one of the greatest wins we've seen here at Melbourne Park was Ash Barty," Tiley said. "It's a very difficult thing to do ... only they (players) can talk about it, but responding to the pressure is not that straightforward.
"We would love to see Nick do well. For us, it's just day-by-day and him staying healthy, enjoying the competition. I believe if Nick comes out and has some fun while he's doing it, and has an opportunity to play his best tennis, that would be great."
Despite not accruing any ranking points for his tremendous run at Wimbledon, Kyrgios' best season on tour saw him skyrocket up the men's rankings. After starting well outside the top 100 at 127 in February, Kyrgios has since reached the rank of world No.22.
"Reaching the Wimbledon final is a pretty significant achievement - having the year that he had is a significant achievement," Tiley said. No Australian has won the men's title since Mark Edmondson in 1976 and Kyrgios' opposition will include defending champion Rafa Nadal.
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It will also include Novak Djokovic, whom Kyrgios teased a future doubles partnership with earlier in the week, as well as his opponent in the aforementioned Wimbledon final. The Serbian star arrived on Australian shores quietly overnight, a far cry from the controversy that erupted upon his arrival back in January, which culminated in him being deported.
The usual three-year visa ban for deportees was waived for Djokovic by the federal government after rules requiring overseas visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 were scrapped earlier in the year. Tiley said he was hopeful the nine-times champion at Melbourne Park would get a respectful reception from tennis fans.
"I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian public - we're a very well-educated sporting public, particularly those who come to the tennis," he said. "They love seeing greatness ... I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react like we hope they would react and have respect for that."
Tiley said there had been a "pent-up" demand for tickets after two years of the pandemic. The tournament is aiming to top 2020, its best year, with Tiley hoping about 900,000 fans will attend. As the temperature ramped up into the mid-30s on Tuesday, Tiley said the long-range forecast for next month is "good".
"Contingent on good weather, we are expecting a record-breaking 2023," he said. "There are a few things we cannot control - we cannot control changing health conditions, we cannot control changing weather conditions. The long-range forecast has been really good for January - but again, it's the weather, it's Melbourne."
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