Rising German star Alexander Zverev has described Nick Kyrgios as a “cool dude”, saying the firebrand Australian is a completely different person away from the tennis court.
Kyrgios endured a turbulent end to his 2016 campaign when he was banned from the ATP tour for three weeks and ordered to undergo counselling after tanking points in a shock loss to Zverev’s older brother Mischa at the Shanghai Masters.
The world No.13, who is renowned for his temper tantrums and outbursts, is one of the most talented players on tour.
But his erratic behaviour on the court has led to doubts about whether he’ll ever reach his potential.
Zverev is good friends with Kyrgios, and was quick to defend the Australian.
“On the tennis court, he’s completely different to what he is outside,” Zverev said.
“He’s a great guy. He’s always very friendly. Always very polite with people. He’s just a very cool dude.”
Kyrgios was in hot form during his first two matches at the Hopman Cup.
But he looked disinterested in his final match – a 6-2 6-2 loss to American Jack Sock that lasted just 49 minutes.
Kyrgios was battling a knee injury in that contest, and his body language was of a player who didn’t want to be out there.
Kyrgios is confident he’ll recover in time to cause some damage at the Australian Open, and Zverev agreed with that assessment.
“He’s a very dangerous player, for the big guys as well. We’ll see how he goes,” Zverev said.
That danger has been proven time and time again, with Kyrgios taking wins over nearly all the ATP Tour top ten and tennis legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
The only exceptions being world No.1 Andy Murray, who in five attempts he has never beaten, Austrian gun Dominic Thiem, while he has never played Novak Djokovic.
Like Kyrgios, Zverev is a rising star on the men’s tour, the 19-year-old rose from 83rd up to 24th in the world in 2016, and appears primed to make another significant step up this year.
Zverev showcased his potential with an upset three-set win over 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer on Wednesday night.
It was the second time Zverev had beaten Federer, with the first win coming in the semi-finals of Halle last year.
Despite that success Zverev remained cool on his own chances of success at Melbourne Park.
“You can’t really listen to what other people have to say,” Zverev said.
“I have a team around me who always have their opinion, which I listen to.
“I know I have to keep working hard, and I don’t want to stop here.”