Nearly 12 months after fearing he would suffer burnout and admitting he was struggling mentally, Nick Kyrgios is full of confidence and ready to launch an assault on the French Open.
At the mid-way point of last year, Kyrgios admitted to being “mentally weary” and during the pre-Wimbledon Queen’s Club tournament declared he “didn’t want to be there” following a straight-sets defeat to French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
But ahead of his French Open first-round clash with Italian Marco Cecchinato the brash 21-year-old is in form, in a good headspace and ready to make a deep run into the second week at Roland Garros.
The 17th seed has enjoyed a promising claycourt season to date, beating Warwinka to reach the quarter-finals at the Madrid Masters where he lost to world No.5 Kei Nishikori before backing it up by defeating world No.9 Milos Raonic and taking a set off the claycourt champion Rafael Nadal in Rome last week.
Asked to pinpoint where the upsurge in form had come from, Kyrgios said the answer was simple.
“I’m probably enjoying my tennis a little bit more,” he said.
“I’m just playing better. I’m getting better as a tennis player.
“That’s why you keep training. I’m noticing I’m moving better, I’m playing a lot better and I’m winning more matches.”
Seeded 17 in Paris, Kyrgios says he is in better shape and is better suited to clay than last year when he was defeated by world No.2 Andy Murray.
He has drawn favourably, having escaped early clashes with world No.1 Novak Djokovic as well as Wawrinka and Nadal, and an appearance in the second week at Roland Garros beckons.
“I feel like I can do reasonably well. I definitely feel a lot more confident on the clay than I did last year,” he said.
“When I play grand slams I don’t really set a goal or where I’m going to get to.
“It’s a long two weeks if you make it to the second week. The first week is really important.
“You’ve got to try and get out there and finish matches off quickly if you can and try and reserve a lot of energy.”
Of his opponent, Kyrgios said he wouldn’t be tracking down footage to prepare for their clash, which will open court one on Sunday evening AEST.
“This guy’s favourite surface is obviously clay and he’s comfortable on it,” he said.
“I know he can be dangerous on it so I’m just going to go out there and just play how I’ve been playing.
“I’m not going to watch anything of him, or anything like that, I’m just going to play my game.”
Also in action on Sunday will be John Millman, who takes on giant American 15th seed John Isner, and wildcard Jordan Thompson who will face Serbian qualifier Laslo Djere.
Australia’s leading female hope, Samantha Stosur, takes the court on Monday night AEST, while Bernard Tomic, Daria Gavrilova, Arina Rodionova and Sam Groth will play on either Monday or Tuesday.
AUSTRALIANS IN ACTION AT THE FRENCH OPEN ON SUNDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):
17-Nick Kyrgios v Marco Cecchinato (ITA)
John Millman v 15-John Isner (USA)
Jordan Thompson v Laslo Djere (SRB)