There have been a few nice media pieces over the last few weeks on Nick's coming to grips with newfound fame, and renewed focus on training. Don't know if anyone noticed that 'bored in Bundoora' tweet, but today's Canberra Times has a nice follow up on it by Linda Pearce:
It was almost 7pm last Wednesday in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and Nick Kyrgios was restless. “Anyone wanna chill in bundoora tonight? # bored” tweeted the teenaged toast of Wimbledon and conqueror of 14-time major champion Rafael Nadal to his 72,800 global followers.
Someone did. Someone named Tim, a student at nearby La Trobe University, who quickly rustled up a group of his mates. Within a few minutes, the 21-year-olds were stunned when the world’s most exciting young tennis player and his friend and training partner Harry Bourchier arrived at their door.
And Kyrgios said, what, exactly? "Yeah, hey, I'm Nick, what's goin' on?'' he recalled with a laugh during a wonderfully frank interview with Fairfax Media on Friday at Melbourne Park. “They couldn't believe it. They were just standing there, and I was like 'you can just act normal.’
“We just talked, and then played a couple of games, just normal stuff. They asked me a lot of questions about Lleyton [Hewitt] and how the top guys were and that sort of stuff, so they were really eager to just find out what Wimbledon was like.
“But then I pretty much just said 'can we just stop talking about this stuff? Let's just talk about normal stuff. I'm just a 19-year-old kid, I don't really want to talk about all that other stuff’.’’ Normal stuff being, like? ‘’Just literally like cards, just literally normal stuff. You know, not much.''
Kyrgios and Bourchier stayed for about 90 minutes. “It was pretty cool. They actually came here yesterday and watched me practise, so I think we've got like, a new friendship sorta going on.'' They will be at the Australian Open, too; a new, and well, like, random fan club has just been formed.
If there are shades of the New York party invitation issued by Pat Rafter’s brother, Peter, to the Aussie backpackers who had driven to Flushing Meadows to see the Queenslander win his first US Open in 1997, in what was the genesis of the “Fanatics” fan club, then not since Rafter has Australian tennis welcomed a new tennis talent with such irresistible star power.
So open and engaging is Kyrgios that he bears precious little resemblance to the over-managed robots who populate so much of the sporting world while just taking it one week/match/yawn at a time. He is as he plays: free, natural, without inhibition.
The main memory of his outrageous surge to the Wimbledon quarter-finals: "Um, probably going to Chipotle Mexican grill every night with my friends and family. Every. Single. Day,’’ he grins. Not shaking hands with the world No.1 after you crushed him on centre court? "Nuh. Just Chipotle. It's the best place in the world.''
Canberra, though, is home, and it was there to his Malaysian mother Nill, Greek father George and lawyer brother Christos that Kyrgios retreated once Canadian Milos Raonic ended his extraordinary debut at the All England Club in four sets, the fuel gauge having teetered close to empty during his third best-of-five-set match in as many days.
There would, he thought, be a low-key welcome in the national capital, then some time to relax with his mates, shoot some hoops, play on his beloved X-Box. Some of that occurred; some did not.
"I was expecting just to come home to quiet Canberra and just chill out for a week, but it was nothing like that at all, which I was actually quite disappointed with, really,’’ he admits. “I got to the airport and there were about 800 people there, cameras everywhere, so it was pretty full-on. And even when I was at home, I was getting ... not to say pestered ... but it was pretty full-on.'' Translation: there were strangers knocking on his door, more demands and intrusions than he had wanted.
Indeed, the recognition has been the biggest change to a life that he has acknowledged will never be the same again. Last week, after training, Kyrgios was photographed wearing his signature pink headphones waiting for the tram outside Melbourne Park. Resolution one: never take public transport again.
The 19-year-old admits that despite the fact his phone had been “blowing up” with the volume of messages, he almost needed to return to Australia to fully realise the impact he had made. “In Canberra it was really crazy, but even in Melbourne it's pretty full-on.
“I can't really go anywhere without being noticed, so that's probably the biggest difference,'’ he adds, before considering whether that is a good or bad thing. “It can be a bit of both. I don't really mind it too much. I get to meet some new people and I'm only young, so I really enjoy that sort of stuff.
“It’s been positive support. [People are] really happy for me, I've been told numerous times that I did them proud and all that sort of stuff, so it's good. But I've been brought down to earth just coming down here and getting back to the hard work.
“Your dream is to win Wimbledon, win a grand slam one day and become No.1 in the world, so I'm not even close at all, I made quarter-finals, and it's all good, it's just motivation to keep getting better. That's that way I've looked at it.''
But perhaps not that far away. Not nearly as far as it was. One of the images on the home page of his official website juxtaposes photos of an anguished Nadal with a bellowing Kyrgios, and another records their handshake at the net, while the scale of the monster breakthrough is illustrated elsewhere on nickkyrgios.org.
In the achievements section, he is, yes, the "1st wildcard in 10 yrs to make Qtr finals; 1st player ranked outside top 100 to defeat a no.1 at a grand slam since Andrei Olhovskiy beat Jimmy(sic) Courier at Wimbledon in the 3rd round in 1992''. Scroll down further, though, and you will see that it was not so long ago he was also "Winner – Taralgon (sic) Grade 1 ITF''.
And now, here he is, preparing to depart for the US hardcourt circuit, with a bullet beside his name as a player to watch, having already been on the front page of the International New York Times and hailed by all who watched the Nadal slaying, two rounds after saving nine match points against Richard Gasquet.
Now battling a cold, after a heavy training bloc, the achievement has finally sunk in, but Kyrgios keeps the fourth-round match on his ever-present mobile phone, and admits he has watched it over and over. “It was a really good two weeks and I'm just reflecting on it, you know, it's something that's not going to go away quickly at all.
"When you get a bit sad or lonely, just watch it. It's just good for confidence and when you're sitting around just analyse how you played, and all that sort of stuff. I don’t go looking on YouTube and watching myself play, but when I just want something to do it's always an option.'' And that outrageous between-the-legs winner? "Yeah,’’ he beams. “That's pretty cool.’’
That, and more like it, have also been making more frequent appearances on the practice court of late. "Yeah, the boys have noticed that I'm going for more trick shots and stuff now, and they're starting to, as well. But it's just good to keep it fun out there. That's why you play the sport in the first place.''
Yet perhaps it is his hunger to reach the pinnacle, combined with the belief that he will get there, that is even more significant. Kyrgios took only a few days post-Wimbledon rest from practice, because he knew he had to, before resuming with his reinstated junior coach Todd Larkham – who replaced the unfortunate Simon Rea – because he wanted to. The motivation for Kyrgios was that he could not bear the thought of wasting time he could be using to keep improving.
Next stop is Toronto, then Cincinnati, for what at this stage will be the qualifying rounds of the Masters 100 double, then a training week before the US Open, his favourite grand slam, and the loudest, most chaotic and in-your-face of the Big Four. Which suits Kyrgios perfectly. Of course it does.
The expectations now will be far greater, he acknowledges, but not a burden, for he knows what is possible, having recently managed what even his beloved mother had doubted was achievable so soon. He expects to perform, and hopes to make another big impact, a world ranking of 65th having earned him direct main draw entry at a grand slam for the first time.
Meanwhile, back in Bundoora, a dozen or so La Trobe uni students are sure to be watching, having spent a cold Wednesday night getting to know the young man who just wanted a few new mates to “chill with’’, while getting used to his own status as the hottest young property in the game. As Nick Kyrgios might ask: “What’s goin’ on?’’ So far, there's an awful lot to like about the answer.