Nick Kyrgios has admitted emulating Ash Barty's feats at the Australian Open last year will be 'very hard', saying he doesn't think an Aussie male will win the title at Melbourne Park for a long time to come. In 2022, Barty became the first Aussie to win the Australian Open in 44 years after Chris O'Neil in 1978.
It has been almost half a century since an Aussie male lifted the trophy, with Mark Edmondson the last to do so back in 1976. Kyrgios is Australia's great hope in 2023, with Barty's retirement in March leaving a sizeable hole in Australian tennis.
But Kyrgios has played down his chances of emulating Barty when the Australian Open starts on Monday, despite the fact he showed he can produce on the grand slam stage when he made the Wimbledon final in July. He also made the quarter-finals at the US Open and will be looking to match his best run at Melbourne Park when he made the last 16 in 2015.
However he will likely come up against ninth seed Holger Rune in the third round before a potential clash with fourth seed Andrey Rublev. If he can get past the higher-ranked opponents he would likely play Novak Djokovic in the quarters.
"Obviously, the only person that's been able to do it in Australia in the last decade's been Ash Barty, to be able to ride the pressure of being at home and getting it done. She's the only person that's been able to do it," Kyrgios said on Thursday.
"Me and Thanasi (Kokkinakis) did it last year in the doubles but doesn't even equate to the singles court. So we're still trying to find those answers. It's so much fun being out here embracing it and getting all the support but at the end of day you've got to have a 'W' so I'm gonna figure that out.
"I don't think any other tennis player, especially in Australia, is under as much media scrutiny as I am. It's a day-to-day thing, it's a day-to-day battle that I just have to embrace and use it as a privilege, I guess.
"But it's hard. No male player's won a slam in Australia for a long, long time. So hopefully we all can find a way how to deal with it."
Nick Kyrgios reflects on 'special' Ash Barty achievement
The 27-year-old revealed he was in the halls of Rod Laver Arena waiting to play his doubles final with Kokkinakis when Barty beat Danielle Collins in the singles final 12 months ago. "I saw it happen. I was waiting in the corridors and I was just watching her win the event, then she walked through the hallways and just soaked it up with her team," he told reporters.
"I don't wish it was me or take inspiration from it, I just was almost just watching the relief. I could feel the relief off her shoulders.
"And that's special - I think someone that's worked very hard and had so much expectation finally got over the line in Australia, I was just smiling and just happy for her. I'm not a jealous person saying 'I wish that was me' but it was just special to see how she embraced her family and everyone that's just been on the journey with her.
"So hopefully one day, any Australian, any men's (champion), I'd be happy for them. But none of us are as dominant as Ash Barty, she was just winning matches for fun out there, barely losing games. So I don't know if it's going to be that easy for us."
Kyrgios tipped Djokovic to win his 10th Australian Open title, but said his run to the Wimbledon final shows he can match it with the world's best. "Well, I am one of the best players in the world," he said.
"So I'm definitely gonna go into the Australian Open, any tournament with confidence. Usually I'm kind of like a dark horse, but now obviously after the year I've had, I'm one of the favourites.
"So it's kind of new for me as well. Like this is the first time I've genuinely gone into a slam feeling like I'm one of the guys that can really take the trophy and knock on the door. So I don't know what I'm going to be feeling when I get out there. Usually I've got 'nothing-to-lose' type thing and just putting on a show but I've got to try and really find that balance."
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