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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Casey Dellacqua leads Stanmore Wyverns to Asia-Pacific Tennis League Conference Finals

 

Casey Dellacqua

Casey Dellacqua

By Dave Gertler

(November 21, 2013) SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA  – Round four of the Asia-Pacific  Tennis League’s New South Wales Conference was headlined by four-time Grand Slam doubles finalist Casey Dellacqua, who has  spent the off-season in Sydney gearing up for what will be  a  physically demanding 2014 season.

 

The Asia-Pacific Tennis League is the premier national team tennis competition in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. With five separate State conferences and four to six  separate men’s and women’s teams within each  conference,  the ATL brings rising stars from the ITF and Challenger  tours together with elite ATP and WTA players, both active  and retired.

 

The format of the ATL is similar to World Team Tennis,  teams  competing in fast-paced singles and doubles rubbers, whose  shortened format features first-to-four sets, super  tie-breaks and playing service lets. Spectators enjoy both elite-level tennis and other entertainment including courtside music and team mascots.

 

Australian household names like Pat Rafter (Sunshine Coast Breakers),  Wally Masur, Casey Dellacqua (Stanmore Wyverns) and Nick  Kyrgios (Canberra Velocity) have been involved in five  rounds leading to the Conference Finals. The League Finals will take place during the second week of the Australian Open, on the outside courts of Melbourne Park.

 

“I haven’t hit a ball for a few weeks,” said Dellacqua after the day of ATL matches at City Community Tennis Centre, Prince Alfred Park. “A lot of my focus has been  more about the physical side, so my body’s pretty sore  but  it was good to get out here today and pick up the racquet,  have some fun and get out there with a couple of the girls  and enjoy myself.”

 

Her team, the Stanmore Wyverns, relied on her to win her doubles in straight sets, after they were pushed hard in other rubbers by host club UTS City Lizards. The final match score was Wyverns 3-7-35 to Lizards 3-6-35, meaning the match was decided by one set.

 

While Dellacqua and Wyverns No.2 singles player Monique Adamzcak both won their singles convincingly, Stephanie Bengson and Lucie Kriegsmannova fought back for the Lizards in stand-out singles rubbers against Julia Moriarty and Angelique Svinos respectively, levelling match score at 2-2.

 

The rubber between Bengson and Moriarty was particularly crucial as it was the hard-fought set Moriarty won, in the only three-setter of the day, which would ultimately clinch the win for the Wyverns.

 

The doubles combination of Kriegsmannova and Bengson then went on to defeat Moriarty and big-hitting Deeon Mladin in a match full of reflex volleying exchanges and big serving.

Moriarty/Mladin only won two games in straight first-to-four sets, the 4-2, 4-0 score not indicative of the quality of the highly-entertaining points.

 

Doubles pair Dellacqua/Adamzcak needed to win their match  in  straight sets against UTS City Lizards’ Jess Engels and  Renee Beck, which is exactly what they did, sealing the  match for the Wyverns and confirming their place at the ATL  Conference Play-off, to be played next Friday 29 November  at  Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre.

 

Dellacqua, whose focus is on improving her singles ranking in 2014, said she’d also like to go one step further in doubles, having made it to the finals of all four Grand Slams – Roland Garros in 2008 with Francesca Schiavone, and the other three in 2013 with Ashleigh Barty. “Ash and I will continue to play,” said Dellacqua, ‘We’ve obviously had a great year but we’d like to go one step further and win a Grand Slam. We made three finals, so it’d be nice to win one.”

 

Earlier in the day, the men’s round 4 action saw a strong display of tennis between Stanmore Wyverns and Sydney Olympic Rebels. Seventeenth ranked Australian Adam Feeney had a solid win over 21-year-old Simon Ede, and Jonathon Cooper had a surprise win over his former coach and ATP 105-ranked player Todd Reid. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the Wyverns won the other two singles rubbers, and both doubles, to win the match 4-9-45 to 2-6-34.

 

The event was held at City Community Tennis, which has been nominated as a finalist for the 2013 Newcombe Medal for Most Outstanding Tennis Community in Australia.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama. Follow him on Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

 

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Kyrgios and Konjuh Win Australian Open Junior Singles Titles

 

By Jaclyn Stacey

(January 26, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Nick Kyrgios has been crowned the 2013 Australian Open Junior Boys’ champion after overpowering good friend and fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 7-6(4) 6-3 in one hour and 31 minutes on Saturday afternoon at Melbourne Park.

 

“Yeah, obviously I’m really happy with that performance today. I knew that I had to play some really good tennis,” Kyrgios said. “So, yeah, it’s great start on the year.”

 

The two mixed up their play, hitting largely from the baseline but also willing to try a drop shot and come into the net to volley. Both played a largely aggressive offensive game with big groundstroke shotmaking.

 

It was a tight contest in the first set with neither player able to gain an advantage. Kokkinakis had several break point opportunities late in the set but Kyrgios was able to effectively shut them down with his big serve. The set culminated in a tie-break situation as neither player was able to get a lead. Kyrgios got the mini-break in the first point of the tie-break and ran with it, closing out the first set 7-6(4).

 

Kyrgios converted a break point opportunity in the fourth game of the second set to go ahead a set and a break 3-1 against his good friend. Kokkinakis was struggling with a back problem during the match and it looked to be getting to him as time wore on. Kyrgios then picked up his serve in his final game to win the tournament with an ace 7-6(4) 6-3 in the same week he became the ITF world number one junior. He produced 36 winners to Kokkinakis’ 20.

 

Kyrgios said the key to winning today had been to maintain composure and not get caught in the moment. He explained his thoughts on being down break points and set points in the first set: “I was just trying to stay as composed as I could and take my time. I thought I played the big points

well. I didn’t really get angry at myself leading into that point or anything like that.”

 

Kyrgios was asked what he will do to ensure he doesn’t fade into oblivion as many former Junior Australian Open champions have done in the past.

 

“Obviously going to keep working hard, day in, day out. That’s what it’s all about. Keep improving on and of the court. I’m going to try and play a lot more futures and challengers and boost my ATP ranking up as well.”

 

“Obviously I’m going to take a lot of confidence out of this. Still a long way to go, it’s a long journey, anything can happen, but right now I’m really happy. I’m just going to keep working hard.”

 

In the girl’s singles final Croatian number three seed Ana Konjuh signalled herself as a future star in women’s tennis after defeating Czech number two seed Katerina Siniakova 6-3 6-4 in just over one hour.

 

“Well, you know, I feel really great. I won doubles and singles. I’m first time here. Just the feeling is incredible.”

 

Konjuh also won the girls’ doubles title on Friday with Canadian Carol Zhao to cap off an impressive tournament for the young Croatian. The win in the singles will move Konjuh to the top of the ITF Junior rankings from Monday.

 

Konjuh says she’s happy to be the world number one but says her focus for 2013 will be to improve her WTA ranking.

 

“I’m going to play the junior Grand Slams: Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open. I’m just going to play 10,000′s, 25′s and 50′s. I just want to go now for WTA ranking.”

 

Konjuh has also been selected to represent Croatia in Fed Cup for the first time and will play alongside Petra Martic, Donna Vekic and Tereza Mrdeza.

 

“No, it’s another great experience. I’m going to get a chance to play with some pro players. I just happy to be there.”

 

Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.

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Kyrgios and Kokkinakis set up All-Aussie Junior Boys’ Final at the Australian Open

 

By Jaclyn Stacey

 

(January 25, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Newly crowned ITF Junior Boys’ world No. 1 Nick Kyrgios stormed into the Australian Open Junior Boys’ final after dominating eighth seed Filippo Baldi 6-2, 6-1 in just 41 minutes on Friday.

 

“Obviously I’m really stoked with that performance today, I knew Baldi has been playing some pretty good tennis to make it to the semifinal and I knew I had to stick to my game plan,” Kyrgios said. “I like to come out strong, show a bit of fire in the first couple of games, show them that I’m there and that I’m going be tough to beat.”

 

Kyrgios was devastating in the win, sending down 9 aces and winning 75% of first serves in play against the Italian. The 17-year-old Australian will play compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first All-Australian junior final since Ben Ellwood defeated Andrew Ilie in the 1994.

 

The unseeded Kokkinakis defeated eleventh seed Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2 in just over one hour and the win caps off an unforgettable summer for the Adelaide teen. Kokkinakis was in Perth for the Hopman Cup as a reserve for Bernard Tomic but found himself as a substitute for the injured John Isner in the US team who took on Spain in their round robin contest. Kokkinakis came within three points of taking a set off Fernando Verdasco and also teamed with Venus Williams in the mixed doubles.

 

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis know each others’ games well and consider themselves good friends. They also teamed up to play the Australian Open Junior Doubles competition where they lost in the quarterfinals. Most recently they squared off in the National 18 and under championships final at Melbourne Park in December with Kyrgios the victor in a tight three set match.

 

In the Girls’ singles, second seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic defeated Estonian tenth seed Anett Kontaveit in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 in just under one hour. The Czech will meet the third seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia in the final who overcame a resurgent Elizaveta Kulichkova in a three set battle 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

 

The Boys’ and Girls’ doubles champions were also decided on Friday with the Australian combo of Jay Andrijic and Bradley Mousley triumphant 6-3 7-6(3) over the German/Austrian pairing of Maximilian Marterer and Lucas Miedler in the Boy’s competition. In the girls’ competition singles finalist Ana Konjuh partnered with Canadian Carol Zhao to defeat the Ukrainian/Czech pairing of Oleksandra Korashvili and Barbora Krejcikova 5-7, 6-3, (10-7)

 

Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.

 

 

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