2014/04/20

“The Journey Starts Today” An Interview with Nick Kyrgios

Nick Kyrgios from Australian open twitter feed

(January 17, 2014) MELBOURNE – There were probably few outside of the tightly knit Australian tennis community who knew Nick Kyrgios‘ name before Thursday night. But even devastating cramps did not tempt the 18-year-old to succumb to early defeat, still mustering up the energy – from God knows where – to stick it out to five sets with world No. 28 Benoit Paire.

While Kyrgios may not have won the match, he has won the hearts of thousands of viewers from all around the world and is motivated even more to go from strength to strength.

We caught up with Kyrgios to hear about his Australian Open debut, the transition to pro tour, his inspiration on court and his reaction to fellow Aussie Bernard Tomic‘s retirement from his first round match against Rafael Nadal earlier on in the week.

 

Alana Mitchelson: You must be pretty proud of your performance last night?

Nick Kyrgios: Last night was one of the best experiences of my life. It was my first Grand Slam best-of-five match. It was a bit unfortunate to lose but all credits to him, you know, he outlasted me. He played some really good tennis and I respected him as well. But the crowd was unbelievable. It was an experience that just keeps me motivated to keep improving.

AM: What was going through your mind as you started cramping up?

NK: My body was hurting a little bit towards the end and I knew that I was getting dominated in the last couple of sets. I knew I had to pull out something. But at that time I was just trying to relax and keep my body as efficient as possible so that I wasn’t going to fully cease up. I was good enough to finish the match and I gave it everything I could. That’s all you can do.

 

AM: Was there a reason why you didn’t call for a trainer to maybe have a massage? It might have given your legs a bit of a rest.

NK: That was running through my mind as well. Obviously there are rules, you can’t call for cramps, and I know there are a lot of ways around that but I thought I could have managed it myself and I thought I did everything I could. I don’t think I would have gotten too much out of that because I couldn’t really move my quad at one stage and I couldn’t really bend it or straighten it. So I just kept moving on with the game and it ended up feeling okay towards the end of the fifth set, but it was a bit too late. He had a lot of momentum and he just carried it through.

 

AM: After what happened with Tomic’s match earlier in the week, were you worried about how the crowd would react if you had called a time-out?

NK: I wasn’t thinking about Tomic at all at that stage when I was thinking about throwing the towel in. I was always going to finish the match to the very end no matter what happened out there. But obviously what happened to Bernie’s not ideal. I’m feeling for him. I hope he’s recovering as quick as possible because we need him for the Davis Cup tie coming up.

 

AM: What was your reaction to how the crowd reacted to Tomic retiring?

NK: That’s a tough question. I don’t really know. I’m sure Bernie had a legitimate reason for why he retired. He’s one of the best tennis players we’ve got. I’m sure he would have been feeling something out there, he’s not going to just retire. He loves being on that Rod Laver Arena. He’s played some unbelievable matches there and to have the opportunity to play Rafael Nadal as well, you’re not going to pass it up like that. I’m assuming that something is wrong.

 

AM: What has been your favourite part of this whole experience of playing at your home slam at men’s standard for the first time?

NK: Especially, it being the Australian Open, just playing at home and having your family and your friends and just everybody supporting you and getting behind you. I mean, last night sounded like a Davis Cup tie playing at home. Everybody just went nuts. They were really motivating me and pushing me to bring out some of my top tennis. It’s almost just motivated me to keep playing at this level continuously because it’s what you dream of when you’re a little kid.

 

AM: How have you been coping with being more so in the spotlight and receiving more media attention?

NK: I’m honestly not too fussed by all that stuff. It’s obviously tough having the spotlight on you and a lot of expectation, a lot of pressure. I think you’ve just got to embrace all that. You can’t really block it out because that’s when it starts to get to you. You just embrace it and you do everything you can to work through it. It’s tough when they’re firing questions at you when you’ve lost a five setter over about four hours yesterday, but you can’t let emotions cloud your responses.

 

AM: And your Twitter followers completely skyrocketed last night. What was that like, to just casually glance down at your phone and see you had 14,000 followers overnight?

NK: It was pretty crazy. But my phone’s running pretty slow at the moment. So it’s great that I’m getting all of the support, but my phone doesn’t really work properly right now. But it’s obviously good to have all the support out there and it’s motivating to keep working hard.

 

AM: You’re the only teenager in the top 200. How do you feel playing people who are older and more experienced than yourself? Are you intimidated by that at all? It didn’t seem to worry you last night.

NK: Nah, it’s not intimidating. You don’t really have too much to lose against those top guys. Receiving a wildcard, as well, you have an opportunity to just go out there and have an absolute crack at it. It’s obviously a good feeling being the only teenager in the top 200. All those facts are just motivating to keep going, to really make those top guys known to you.

 

AM: Who on the men’s tour do you have the most respect for?

NK: The most respect? Probably Roger Federer. He’s done an enormous amount for the game and he’s a perfect role model for anyone who does play tennis and who doesn’t play tennis. Just the way he conducts himself on and off the courts, it’s unbelievable the charity work he does. He’s the perfect person.

 

AM: Have you ever had the chance to have a chat to him?

NK: I haven’t had a running conversation with him but I’ve said ‘hi’ to him a couple of times and he’s said ‘hey, how are you?’ and stuff like that but I haven’t really had deep conversations with him.

 

AM: How were you first introduced to tennis?

NK: My mum took me down to the local tennis courts in Canberra, where I’m originally from, and I wasn’t too keen on it at all (laughs). But she just said to have a go and I really enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun out there and I think that carries on to today. I love having fun out there and really enjoy myself.

 

AM: Can you tell me a bit about your Greek heritage?

NK: My dad’s my Greek side. He was in Greece and he came to Australia in 1957 with his mum. I did a bit of Greek school when I was young but I was just real naughty. I never really did anything in class. That’s why, to this day, I can understand a little of it but I can’t speak it. Probably should’ve listened a bit more in class. It’s really good having such a strong Greek community in Melbourne come out and support me and Thanasi this week and I can’t thank them enough.

 

AM: Can you tell me a bit about your success as a Junior? When you’re playing with all of those other Australian kids across different states and you see just how much talent there is out there, how did you keep motivated to feel you might have a shot at this and to pursue tennis as a career?

NK: Yeah, I think we’re producing a lot of good Junior players in Australia at the moment. We’ve got a lot of guys in the Junior Australian Open as well. We all push each other, we all train together and I think moving from the Junior to the senior ranks is one of the toughest transitions. You’ve just got to stay positive. Tennis can beat you down mentally with all the travel and stuff, so you’ve just got to keep pushing, stay positive and push each other. I think it’s good that we all have each other as well.

 

AM: Like you said, you are going through that transition phase now. For some, it can be a quick process to shoot up in the rankings but for others it can be years and years. So how does that make you feel, knowing it could be next year or it could be 10 years?

NK: Yeah, you can’t really think about it too much like that because that’s sort of frightening. You’ve just got to take it each day at a time. The journey starts today and you’ve only got to worry about what you’re going to do today. You’ve got to get better at something every day I think too. You either take a step forward or you take a step back every day, so you’ve just got to keep bringing the right attitude every day.

 

AM: Is it nice that you and Thanasi Kokkinakis are making this transition into pro tour together?

NK: Yeah, I think having Thanasi there is really good because he’s a close friend as well and when I’m struggling I’ll talk to him or when he’s struggling he’ll talk to me. But we push each other. We’re sort of competing against each other as well. Whenever one of us makes that push, the other one follows. He’s done a great job. He’s really impressed me the last couple of years, especially last year, and he was playing some unbelievable tennis this week as well. It’s not really surprising that he’s doing that, you know, he’s a great player. It’s really good that we’re working together.

 

AM: Do you think there’s a little bit of a rivalry forming there between the two of you? I’m thinking back to the Australian Open Junior final last year and the 18s final before that again.

NK: Yeah, I’m sure there’s a bit of that there as well. That’s completely normal I think. Tennis is an individual sport. You’re going to always want yourself to perform the best. But I think it’s important that we stick together.

 

AM: Who gives you the most inspiration when you’re on the court. Obviously you have a lot of passion within you for the sport but there must be certain people in your life who really inspire you.

NK: Yeah, I think that person is Christos and he’s my brother. He amazes me how positive he is and how much motivation he has. He’s always in the gym pushing himself and he’s always motivating me – always keeping it positive, getting me up for training when I’m struggling for matches. He’s always been there. He’s always been on the side of the court. He was there last night from the start to the end. He’s really that person you described I think.

 

AM: What’s the funniest thing to have ever happened to you on a tennis court?

NK: Oh, probably the funniest thing that happened this week was last night when I saved the set point, second set, and they reckon it was the shot of the tournament so far. The crowd was loving it and I just got the crowd involved. That was probably my best moment because it looked pretty funny on the highlight.

 

AM: Thanks for your time and good luck with everything.

NK: Yeah, no probs. Thank you.

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Nishikori Becomes First Japanese Man in French Open Fourth Round since 1938

Kei Nishikori

(June 1, 2013) With his 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 24 Benoit Paire of France on Saturday, 13the seed Kei Nishikori became the first man from Japan to reach the round of 16 at Roland Garros since 1938 when Nakano Fumiteru accomplished the feat.

When told about his history-making accomplishment, Nishikori had no idea about the record: “Sorry, I’m not good at the history. “

”I’m happy to create another history and, yeah, happy to break another record.”

During the match there was a bit of controversy when Paire was called for illegal coaching by chair umpire Enric Molina and penalized a point while he had a set point on Nishikori’s serve at 5-4 in the second set. The world No. 13 went on to hold serve.

“For sure, it’s not fair. You see every coach do the same thing,” Paire said. “If it’s the best player in the world, (Molina) doesn’t (give a) warning.”

Nishikori did not see it.

“I didn’t see it, and I didn’t know what’s happening in the match.

“They didn’t explain me, and I didn’t care, said a smiling Nishikori.

“But, you know, I heard what’s happen after the match, and, I mean, I heard it was coaching.  I mean, I didn’t see, you know, how much he did.  I cannot say anything.”

“Other player see the coaches, and it’s not fair to give advice, but I also do, you know, see my coach and just not ‑‑ he’s not going to give me advice, but just to relax or concentrate, “ the Japanese player added.

Nishikori faces the ultimate challenge in his next match when he faces seven-time champion Rafael Nadal for a place in the quarterfinals.

Nishikori is happy to be making progress on the tour since he burst on the tour in 2008, having to deal with a few injuries along the way.

“The last year was getting better.  I was first time to be top 20, and my tennis was changing, you know.  You need a lot of experience to be there, and I try to not doing, you know, crazy mistakes and try to be there all the time.

“That’s something what I’m working on still, so ‑‑ yeah, I had big injury 2009.  I have to pass one year without tennis, and that made little stop.

“But I’m happy to be here now and, yeah, this year is going well for me, so hopefully keep going.”

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Crowd Sours Atmosphere In Madrid

By Tumaini Carayol

(May 8, 2013) MADRID – Seven years ago, the differences were palpable. Both sets of hair were considerably longer, the biceps were bigger, the courts were bluer but without any controversy thanks to the hardness that complimented the color, the season was different and the crowds. Well, the crowds were one of the few constants as Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal took to the Manolo Santana court to compete their 2006 Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinal.

 

Quickly, this young and promising Berdych rose to the occasion. The serve first began to inflict irreversible damage and the forehand soon followed suit, releasing an array of winners that a flailing Nadal struggled to counter. As the crowd sensed their hero falling, they themselves rose to fend off the challenger, sending a chorus of boos and whistles raining down as the Czech pretender continued in his attempts to usurp the champion.

Berdych would be successful in his quest, closing off a perilously tight second-set tiebreak to move through in straight sets. As he strode confidently to the net, the then 22 year-old would produce one of the enduring images of the event’s history. He placed one finger to his lips in a “shushing” gesture towards the already booing crowd. The jeers were deafening as he finished his journey to the net, and as he attempted to shake the hand of his fallen foe, Nadal interjected. “very bad,” was the audible cry from the Spaniard to the Frenchman as they met at the net.

Though the seven years have passed assuredly by, in reality not much has changed. As Novak Djokovic, Nadal’s greatest rival in recent years, entered the metal box. The booing and jeering quickly followed as, though facing a still not-quite-known, Djokovic was seemingly treated with a distain usually reserved for criminals. Every routine query was met with a chorus of boos and, by the bitter end of the second set, even his missed first serves resulted in grand cheers. The result was an outburst from the Serb, who eventually responded to the crowd’s jeers with a variety of choice words of his own. As the world No. 1 left the court in defeat, even his final exit was met with yet more loud boos. To say he was livid afterwards would be an understatement:

“In the first set, every single close call that I went to look at the ball and the chair umpire comes to see, I got whistled.  I don’t see any reason for that.  I didn’t do anything bad.

“When I see the ball, it’s good, I clear the mark.  I give him a point.  I never did anything opposite in my life.  I’m honest.  If I see the ball in, I play the ball; if it’s close, I call the chair umpire.

“I don’t understand why they turn against me, for what reason, but it is what it is.  I’m a professional, and it’s not the first time I’m experiencing that.

One day on, Nadal made his debut on centre court. Up against the charismatic but unknown Benoit Paire, the Frenchman was simply fulfilling his job description by endeavouring to defeat his illustrious opponent. During the second set, Paire reeled off three winners in a row, a trademark dropshot punctuating the final point of the series. Rather than applauding the challenger’s gusto, the Madrid crowd decided to launch yet another array of boos. Sporadically throughout the match, the heckles raised once again. The Frenchman is perfectly capable of inciting a crowd to boo, and even his home crowds routinely boo him off the court for his tendency to give up without a fight. Against Nadal, however, he was being for the complete polar opposite – for trying. When asked about his thoughts on the crowd, Nadal angrily defended them.

“I am not agree with you,” he said.  Sorry.  The crowd today was 100% correct.  That’s my opinion.  The crowd didn’t say nothing against Paire.

“I am from Spain, and it’s normal the crowd want to support me.  It happens to me the same when I play in different countries against a local player.  That’s the good part of the show.

“In the end, this is only a game, no?  It’s nice to have the crowd involved in this show.  Nothing against the crowd.  I think the crowd here is very emotional.  That’s all.”

“”I think they respect the players always, and I repeat that I cannot have a real opinion on yesterday’s match because I didn’t see it.”

Tumaini Carayol is in Madrid covering the Madrid Open for Tennis Panorama News. He is a contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his tournament updates on @TennisNewsTPN and his personal twitter @TumCarayol.

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Gasquet Wins All-French Final in Montpellier

Richard Gasquet

(February 10, 2013) In an all-French affair, Richard Gasquet defeated Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-3 to capture the Open Sud de France in Montpellier on Sunday. It’s Gasquet’s second tournament win of the year improving his 2013 record to 14-1. He’s the first two-time ATP World Tour titlist of the 2013 season. He also won the Qatar Open.

For Gasquet it’s his ninth ATP World title overall.

“I feel very happy and relieved to win here in Montpellier in front of my friends and family,“ said Gasquet. Since the tournament has been here, it’s been an objective to lift the trophy. I was really disappointed last year when I lost in the quarter-finals. Defeating Gael [Monfils] in a difficult match earlier this week put me in the right direction towards the title.

“The circumstances here are totally different for me, from the rest of the weeks on the tour, because I sleep at home in Bezier and I drive back and forth every day [40 minutes away]. It’s a totally different feeling than lifting a trophy in a different country far away. Also, I know and meet so many people I used to play with when I was younger. I feel I have played against the entire stadium!

“I realize this is my best season start ever and I just want to keep going and stay healthy. I am leaving tomorrow to Rotterdam, then Marseille, which is also an important tournament in France for me.”

 

Despite the loss, Paire looks at the tournament as a positive: “It’s a positive week overall for me. I am a bit disappointed about today’s performance but Richard is a very strong player, with a very unique style, and there was nothing I could do today. I felt a bit stressed out before the final, due to the special circumstances of the match, but these are all positive experiences and I am learning a lot from them. I am very happy to have reached the final. I could have lost against Steve Darcis if it wasn’t for a miraculous let ball on the match point against me.

“It’s nice that it has happened here in Montpellier in front of my parents, who don’t often get to see me play. I grew up not far away from here and used to play all the small tournaments around here. I know I have improved a lot in my attitude and it was important this week to show my parents I am no longer the Benoit who goes crazy and breaks racquets. I really needed them to see how I have changed and I need to keep going. I feel I am on the right track if I stay calm and focused.”

Marc Gicquel and Michael Llodra took the doubles crown to become the eighth all-French pair to win the doubles title since 1987. Six of the last eight years have seen all-French teams win the doubles.

“Now I can say that I won all the French tournaments – except Roland Garros – as Montpellier was the one I was missing Llodra said. “My objective in doubles is to beat Guy’s [Forget] doubles record of 28 titles. I won’t stop until I beat him. I am very happy about this 24th title. I’m not sure how many different partners I’ve had, but I am very happy to have won with my friend ‘Marco’ here in Montpellier. He’s a great guy and we had a blast all week.”

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Federer Strolls Past Paire To Gain Second Round of Australian Open

 

RFederer821

(January 15, 2013) No. 2 Roger Federer started his 2013 year and Australian Open campaign with an easy a 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 demolition of France’s Benoit Paire  to walk into the second round of the first major tournament of the year.

Federer broke Paire in the opening game of the match and again at 4-2 to serve and seal the set at 6-2 in 25 minutes over the 46th ranked player.

The Swiss broke early in the second set and early and often in the third set to capture the match in 83 minutes.

At times Paire seemed listless as though he wanted to leave the court as soon as possible.

Federer ended the match with forehand passing shot winner.

“I started with the early break, and then saved a few break points, and then had the lead ever since,” Federer said.

“So obviously when you’re in the lead, you feel better, you feel less pressure, you try a few things to see if those works and then you have options up your sleeve.

“I’m obviously very happy with this first‑round match, so total control.  He can be a tricky opponent, you know, but I guess his playing style doesn’t disturb me that much overall.

“I’m happy I was able to play a clean match out there today.”

Federer played aggressively winning 25 of 31 point at the net.

Federer will play the winner of the match between qualifier Dudi Sela of Israel or Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko.

“But I played Sela maybe once or twice before,” Federer said, “so I know him a little bit.  Obviously Nikolay, I know him, you know, a whole lot more.  He’s my age.  He played, I don’t know, maybe 15 times.  I played him at a time when he wasn’t also in his best streak and in his best years, really, and he was in the top 4 or top 5 for a long time.

“I played him in the semis of the Grand Slams and at the World Tour Finals when he beat me.  Then he got me again in Doha, and I played him here the following week where it was a very difficult draw for me to have and I found a way.  You always have to expect that out of Davydenko to face if I were to play him, and not the one who’s not been playing so well.

“It was two years ago I think he really struggled with his serve, but seems like he’s coming back around.  I had a very close match with him in Rotterdam last year.  Should have won in two; ended up being 4‑All, Love‑40 in the third.

“I was very close of losing.  Next thing you know, nobody talks about it.  I went on to win the tournament and nobody talks about Nikolay.

“So it’s nice to see him playing well again.  And if I do play well against him, you’re aware that he is a top player who can do a lot of damage.  I better be well prepared and play well.”

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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Baker Continues Dream run from Qualies to the Round of 16

WIMBLEDON – The clock has not yet struck midnight for American Brian Baker who has made a surprising comeback to the tour, after being away from years due to surgeries. Baker who had qualify to play Wimbledon has made it through the qualifying tournament to the round of 16 with a 6‑4, 4‑6, 6‑1, 6‑3 victory over Benoit Paire on Saturday at Wimbledon

“It’s been unreal,” Baker said of his current run from playing Challengers to making his charge to the round of 16 at Wimbledon.  “When I’m on the court I know I definitely have nerves.  Closing out the match you definitely know what’s on the table, what you can accomplish.

“I mean, I missed a few shots at the end that I probably wouldn’t miss if it was the quarters of a challenger and not trying to get to the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

“It is crazy kind of what’s going on.  But I’m still trying to stay focused on the task at hand and not get too wrapped around.

“Because once you do that, I think it’s tough to be able to play your best tennis once you’re happy that you’ve been there.  So I’m trying to every match go in there hungry and try to win the next one instead of, I’m in the Round of 16 of Wimbledon; this is awesome.

“I think it’s great when you can play on any of the biggest courts at each of the Grand Slams,” said Baker.  “I’ve played at Louis Armstrong at the Open; I’ve played now Chatrier at the French; haven’t played the Australian yet.

“I think it’s awesome anytime you can go out and play on one of those courts just because not that many people in the world get to do that.

If I ever get a chance to play on it, it would be great.  I don’t know when I was watching the tennis at that time.  I guess I was probably in the middle of recovering from one or another surgery.  I don’t know if I was thinking, I’m going to be playing right there.

“Ever since a child, I’ve always dreamed it would be great to play on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Baker will go up against 27th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday.

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Seppi Wins Serbia Open

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Mohammed Dabbous/Reuters/Fotoglif

Italy’s Andreas Seppi won the second title of his career eliminating France’s Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-2 for the Serbia Open.

“I think my play was really solid this week,” noted Seppi. “Maybe yesterday, the first set was under my expectations, but the rest was very good, so I can be very happy about this victory.

“My goal is to be back into the Top 30. My highest ranking is 27. At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to try and get back there. I’m a little closer now. I’ll just try to do it match by match and see if I can manage it by the end of the year.”

 

As for the losing finalist, Paire had a career week. The Frenchman reached his first ATP World Tour final, defeating seeds Fabio Fognini and Jarkko Nieminen along the way.

“I was stressed and tired today,” said Paire. “It’s disappointing that I couldn’t win any easy games with my serve after leading 3-1 in the first set. My first serve percentage was very low and that’s why he was able to attack all the time. I only had hard matches against tough players this week. I’m not used to playing so many hard matches against great players in a row. It was a great week for me but of course I’m disappointed that I couldn’t do better in my first final. I have my birthday in two days and this would have been the perfect gift.”

Paire will move into the 60’s when the rankings come out on Monday.  ”I’m looking forward to the coming weeks,” Said the Frenchman. I have no points to defend in the next three months and that makes it very interesting. I saw this week that I can beat great players and I hope that I can continue like this.”

The Serbia Open is run by the Djokovic family. Noak Djokovic pulled out of the tournament due to the death of his grandfather.

RESULTS – SUNDAY, 6 MAY, 2012

Singles – Final
[2] A Seppi (ITA) d B Paire (FRA) 63 62

Doubles – Final
[3] J Erlich (ISR) / A Ram (ISR) d M Emmrich (GER) / A Siljestrom (SWE) 46 62 10-6

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