Anything is possible when Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic launch their Wimbledon campaigns on Monday as enigmatic X-factors in a draw headlined yet again by grand slam giants Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Even Kyrgios and Tomic’s closest allies don’t know what to expect after the unpredictable but mega-talented young guns endured troubled and disrupted build-ups laced with drama and controversy.
Illness and elbow issues restricted Kyrgios to just one competitive outing since the French Open, a quickfire straight-sets loss to Roland Garros winner Stan Wawrinka at Queen’s.
The 20-year-old then parted ways with his coach a week out from Wimbledon.
But his Davis Cup teammate, part-time hitting partner and 2002 All England Club champion Lleyton Hewitt has learnt not to doubt Kyrgios, regardless of his preparation, after watching the precocious talent build an incredible CV.
“He hardly won a match on the ATP Tour before midway through this year,” Hewitt said.
“But he still had a quarter-final at Wimbledon, a quarter at the Aussie (Open) and a third round at the US Open.
“So you sort of just throw the form guide out, which is a good thing to have, just to be able to switch it on.
“Whether he’ll be able to do that when he’s 28, 30, probably not. But when you’re 20, it’s great.”
Hewitt is tipping Kyrgios to see off Argentine baseliner Diego Schwartzman first up and then either Florian Mayer or Juan Monaco to comfortably reach the third round.
Kyrgios would then likely strike seventh seed Milos Raonic, the Canadian who knocked him out in last year’s quarter-finals, in a match Hewitt also believed the Australian could win.
But neither Hewitt nor fellow former world No.1 Pat Rafter can see the 26th seed winning the title – yet.
“He’s not quite a title contender yet,” Hewitt said.
Rafter can’t fault Kyrgios’s potential, but believes “at this stage he doesn’t have that desire and hunger yet”.
“He’s dealing with a lot of pressures, I would imagine, and he’s struggling with that and it’s a tough time,” he said.
“I do remember going through a little bit of what he’s going through in ’94, coming into ’95, ’96.
“But it never stopped me training. I just struggled with all the pressures of it.
“I think Nick is going through that and I really hope he can get through this time.
“And it might take him a year, might take him six months, might take him two years.
“But what you have there is one of the most rawest, natural talents out there right now and has the ability to be a top-five player – hands down – and a potential grand slam winner, no doubt about it.”
But just not now.
“Potentially, he’s can do some damage in the draw,” Rafter said.
“Just going on Nick’s results of late, he’s struggling a little bit, but Nick is always that person who can just light it up whenever it’s there.
“But that’ll catch up to him. Talent will only get you so far in the draw.”
Tomic meets German Jan-Lennard Struff in his opener and is vowing to block out his coach-father John’s escalating feud with Tennis Australia over financial support for his daughter Sara.
World No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic looms as Tomic’s first big test in round three.
Seven other Australian men play on Monday, including teenage ace Thanasi Kokkinakis on debut against Argentina’s 24th seed Leonardo Mayer and his 34-year-old doubles partner Hewitt in his Wimbledon swansong.
Hewitt takes on crafty Finnish left-hander Jarkko Nieminen, while fellow wildcard Matt Ebden, Marinko Matosevic and qualifiers John Millman, John-Patrick Smith and Luke Saville also feature on the opening day of the championships.
Sam Groth and James Duckworth play on Tuesday.