Nick Kyrgios is drawing on Ash Barty’s momentous Melbourne Park triumph as he chases his own hoodoo-busting Australian Open title breakthrough.
- Nick Kyrgios’s best performance at the Australian Open is a quarterfinal appearance in 2015
- Kyrgios is seeded 20th for the Australian Open
- Kyrgios reached the final of Wimbledon last year and backed it up with a quarterfinal appearance at the US Open
Barty broke a 44-year drought for locals at last year’s Australian Open. And it has been almost half a century since Mark Edmondson, the most recent Australian man to lift his home trophy, delivered in 1976.
Coming off last year’s run to the Wimbledon final and Flushing Meadows quarterfinal, Kyrgios is confident he can shake off the left knee and ankle injuries that limited his build-up and challenge for his home title.
The 27-year-old was in the halls of Rod Laver Arena awaiting his doubles final with Thanasi Kokkinakis when Barty triumphed and he reminisced fondly on the moment.
“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,” Kyrgios told reporters on Thursday.
“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.”
A full eight years after Kyrgios’s best effort in Australia, when he reached the Open quarterfinal in 2015, he admitted emulating Barty’s ability to balance handling the pressure and enjoying a home slam was “very hard”.
“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,” he said.
“She’s the only person that’s been able to do it.
“Me and Thanasi 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 going to 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.”
Nonetheless, a confident and upbeat Kyrgios could not resist pointing to his Wimbledon run as proof of his legitimacy.
“Well, I am one of the best players in the world,” he said.
“So I’m definitely going to go into the Australian Open, any tournament, with confidence.”
He is also preparing to take on the new-found level of expectation that follows his 2022.
“Usually I’m kind of like a dark horse but now obviously after the year I’ve had I’m one of the favourites,” the 20th seed said.
“So it’s kind of new for me as well. 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 a ‘nothing-to-lose’ type thing and [am] just putting on a show but I’ve got to try and really find that balance.”