Two-time Grand Slam winner and fellow Aussie, Lleyton Hewitt, feels Nick Kyrgios has a chance of being crowned 2017 Australian Open champion, but only if he can handle the enormous pressure that a home Grand Slam brings.
Hewitt, who is now 35-years-old, retired from tennis in 2016 after a tremendously successful career – though he never managed to win the Australian Open, reaching the final in 2005. With Kyrgios attracting attention for all sorts of reasons, Hewitt remains confident he could do the unthinkable.
“He’s going to be seeded quite high as well so he’s got a good chance,” he said.
“Outside that top group who have won slams, he’s certainly in that next group.
“No doubt he plays well in the majors. He plays well over five sets and now that he is in the top 16 seeds, he doesn’t have to play those (top) guys until the second week.”
The Australian Open gets underway on January 16 in Melbourne, with the Men’s Final scheduled for January 29. Kygrios reached the quarter-final stage in 2015 – becoming the first Aussie to do so since Hewitt in 2005, eventually losing to Andy Murray in three sets.
The 21-year-old had to withdraw from a World Tennis Challenge tournament in Adelaide to rest his injured knee – the world number 14 later confirmed cortisone injections will be a necessity during the Australian Open.
Despite growing concerns on Kyrgios’ participation in the tournament, Hewitt believes it’s nothing new he hasn’t dealt with before.
“He’s had some niggles before and one thing with Nick, he doesn’t need a lot of matches under his belt. He can go in fresh and play extremely well,” he said.
“He’s different (to me). I still think I had to get enough time on court for my hitting and my rhythm.
“But Nick doesn’t need that. For him, it’s more about what the issues are (and) getting on top of that.”
Hewitt added: “The biggest thing for him is going to be managing his body over the next five or six days.”
As the first Grand Slam of 2017 edges closer and closer, the unrelenting weight of a nation’s hopes sit firm on the 21-year-old’s shoulders.
During a press conference on Monday January 9, Kygrios entered wearing an abusive Donald Trump t-shirt, which inevitably caused divided opinions amongst the Australian public.
Hewitt, who climbed to world number 1 and won the US Open by the age of 20, and then became Wimbledon champion at 21-years-old, feels Kygrios must block out any distractions in order to have a successful tournament.
“There’s going to be a lot of pressure and expectation on Nick,” Hewitt said. “He does normally handle It pretty well.
“Anyone playing in their national Grand Slam, all eyes are on you the weeks leading into it.
“There’s a lot of demands as well for your time and it’s about handling all of that and block it out as much as possible.”