Call him cocky, he doesn’t mind, but Nick Kyrgios is confident of doing “special things” at the French Open in his maiden outing as a grand slam seed.
The first player since Roger Federer to reach two men’s grand slam quarter-finals as a teenager, Kyrgios turned 20 last month but makes no apologies for retaining his youthful brashness and bravado.
“It’s not annoying at all,” Kyrgios said when asked by a French reporter if he was bothered by being dubbed “arrogant”.
“I think the greatest people in every sport have an unbelievable amount of self confidence and I think that’s one thing that makes me a good tennis player; I have a lot of belief in myself.
“You don’t see many 19 or 20-year-olds beating some of the greatest of all-time.”
The tennis world has seen Kyrgios do it twice in the past 10 months.
The Australian’s fourth-round victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year brought him instant stardom, while his stunning win over Federer in Madrid this month secured his French Open seeding.
“So it definitely helps me on the court,” Kyrgios said of his volatile temperament.
“I’m still learning how to deal with my emotions on the court. I show a lot of anger at times, but I’m still learning and I think it’s a good thing.
“I’m not fussed about what others think at all.”
Kyrgios only answers to himself and he is once again asking for a lot in Paris.
“I’ve got pretty high expectations of myself,” the 30th seed said ahead of his first-round clash on Monday with Denis Istomin.
“Obviously I’ve had some pretty good results the last couple of weeks and I feel confident.
“I have belief in my body. I feel I have the metres in my legs. I’ve played a lot of five-set matches now, so I feel confident in the grand slams.
“I know it’s an emotional two weeks so you’ve got to try to keep those emotions in check for the first couple of matches if you happen to get through.”
Kyrgios retired midway through his second-round match at the Nice Open last week with elbow soreness, but insists it won’t be an issue at Roland Garros.
Still growing into his 193cm frame, Kyrgios is accustomed to playing injured.
He played just one ATP match in four months before powering into the Australian Open quarter-finals despite a stress fracture in his back.
“At the Australian Open, my back was really bad. I had to take a couple of months off afterwards,” he said.
“But I’m feeling way better than I felt then, so that in itself gives me confidence.
“If I can make the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a bad back, I can do some special things healthy.”
Kyrgios’s optimism is in contrast to Bernard Tomic’s uncertainness entering his first-round match on Monday with lowly-ranked qualifier Luca Vanni.
The Australian No.1 also pulled the pin in Nice and said on Saturday he was still suffering from a virus that had him laying low for five days.
Tomic said he was “probably 80, 90 per cent” but hoped to improve before taking on the qualifier who edged him in a third-set tiebreaker two weeks ago in Madrid.
“His serve’s really good,” Tomic said.
“I played him at 900 metres altitude so I don’t know how he’s going to serve here, but he’s qualified so it’s not an easy match.”
If Tomic wins and Thanasi Kokkinakis beats Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili on his Roland Garros debut on Monday, the Davis Cup teammates will clash in a second-round blockbuster on Wednesday.
AUSTRALIANS IN ACTION AT THE FRENCH OPEN ON MONDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):
Women’s singles, first round
26-Samantha Stosur v Madison Brengle (USA)
Casey Dellacqua v Ajla Tomljanovic
Daria Gavrilova v Johanna Larsson (SWE)
Jarmila Gajdosova v Amandine Hesse (FRA)
Men’s singles, first round
27-Bernard Tomic v Luca Vanni (ITA)
30-Nick Kyrgios v Denis Istomin (UZB)
Sam Groth v 21-Pablo Cuevas (URU)
Thanasi Kokkinakis v Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO)
Marinko Matosevic v Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)