John McEnroe says embattled Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios couldn’t have a better man in his corner than Lleyton Hewitt.
After hosting Kyrgios at his Bahamas base last week as the 20-year-old was crucified by the tennis world and sanctioned by the ATP for his sledging of Stan Wawrinka, Hewitt took up a front-row seat in his Davis Cup teammate’s courtside box for his Open clash with Andy Murray on Tuesday night.
ESPN listed Hewitt as the coachless Kyrgios’ “advisor” and, commentating for the network, McEnroe said it was a masterstroke to turn to “one of the greatest competitors in the history of tennis”.
“It’s a good move from Kyrgios. It could be just what the doctor ordered,” said tennis’ original superbrat.
A big fan of Kyrgios, McEnroe said he was as much concerned about the two-time grand slam quarter-finalist’s loose game management as his conduct.
“Obviously that next guy he gets to coach him is going to be extremely important to him; to get the right guy, the right people around him,” McEnroe said.
Hewitt, who endured his own troubles after polarising fans early in his career, said he sympathised with Kyrgios.
“I do feel for him. He’s a good kid,” Hewitt said after advancing to the second round at Flushing Meadows for the 13th time on Tuesday.
“As a bloke, he’s pretty reserved for how you see him on the court.
“He trusts me at least, which is a big step forward. Obviously I’ve been able to earn that trust being in Davis Cup teams and showing that I do care about his career.”
Pre-tournament, Kyrgios said Hewitt’s influence had been huge and that he valued being able to talk to the dual grand slam champion.
“We speak about everything,” Hewitt said, without revealing any specific advice he may have offered the controversial youngster.
Six-times major winner and former world No.1 Boris Becker, now coaching the top-ranked Novak Djokovic, was another interested observer at Kyrgios’ match.
The German dubbed Kyrgios “a character”, but said he needed to tone down his on-court antics and start making headlines for his tennis instead of his trash talking.
“I’ve learned that he’s extremely talented, that he could be a much better player if he stopped his talk,” Becker said.