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Nadal leads the rallying call: Tennis needs this Kyrgios to stay

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Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal

Highlighted by Rafael Nadal. Echoed by John McEnroe and Mats Wilander. This Nick Kyrgios needs to stay.
After an exhausting four-set victory over Kyrgios in the Australian Open fourth round, Nadal perhaps best summed up the Australian’s recent transformation best.

“What can I say? When he’s playing like today with this positive attitude, he gives a lot of positive things to our sport,” Nadal told McEnroe on court.

“I encourage him to keep working like this, because he is one of the highest talents that we have on our Tour.

“I like the Nick Kyrgios during the whole of this tournament.”

Nadal went into greater depth in his post-match press conference, stating he will be the first to back Kyrgios so long as the Australian can maintain this desire.

“When he wants to play tennis, when he is focused on what he is doing, he is a very important player for our sport,” Nadal added.

Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios

” I am never against his way or style to play, when I criticise him in the past it’s because he did a couple of things that are not right, or the right image for our sport or for the kids. When he’s doing the right things I am the first to support this. I saw him playing during the whole tournament and he has been great, very positive, and personally I like to watch him play when he’s doing it that way. I think everybody likes to watch Nick play when he is able to play like this. His talent is to be one of the best in the world without a doubt, with a chance to fight for every tournament.”
McEnroe, Wilander impressed by Kyrgios
McEnroe gatecrashed Game, Schett, Mats on Eurosport to provide his two cents on Kyrgios’ improvement at the Australian Open.
Nick Kyrgios
“I’ve never seen Nick battle like that,” he said. “If he keeps battling like that he will be in the top 10 at the end of the year. Let’s hope and pray that it continues.”

And Wilander echoed those sentiments, stating his desire for Kyrgios to keep up this drive for success.

Wilander said: “A match like this, the support from the Australian crowd, now the support from the locker room, and even Nadal, hopefully that gets Kyrgios to realise this is what he should be doing in his life – try hard on a tennis court, and good things will happen for it off the court as well.

“There were nerves involved, great shot-making skills involved, and even a few smiles between the two players. We can forget that rivalry they had, that doesn’t exist anymore, there is respect between the two. Nadal had some great words to say about Nick after the match, where if he keeps this positive attitude he’s one of the most talented players on this Tour. Hopefully Kyrgios takes this and realises that this is what he should be doing.”

Our view: Foundations finally in place for Kyrgios to emerge a champion
On the surface, Kyrgios exiting at the fourth-round stage of a Grand Slam is another indication he is struggling to live up to his potential, but those who still hold that belief will unlikely have followed the Australian closely this past month.

The 24-year-old spearheaded tennis’ push to raise money for bushfire relief, donating with every ace and inspiring other players to do likewise. Tennis Australia’s Rally for Relief also stemmed from Kyrgios’ urge for action before the Australian Open began.

This display of compassion won Kyrgios an army of supporters. He already had a fervent following, but even those deterred by his on-court conduct were in admiration of his off-court deeds.

In channelling his focus on the bushfire relief, a more composed Kyrgios emerged in the early stages of the Australian Open. He admitted to being distracted by the bushfire crisis, but still, he looked assured in his victories over Lorenzo Sonego and Gilles Simon.

In the third round, Kyrgios went the distance with 16th seed Karen Khachanov, prevailing in five gruelling sets after nearly four-and-a-half hours on court, which featured four tie-breaks.

There were tweeners and the occasional verbal volley with the umpire, but again it was an indication this Kyrgios has the mettle to match his ability.

Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios
Then came Nadal-Kyrgios VIII. A grudge match no longer?

The eighth instalment of their rivalry was played under the difficult backdrop of Kobe Bryant’s devastating death. Kyrgios, a huge basketball fan, walked out onto Rod Laver Arena wearing a Bryant 8 jersey, and was still clearly overcome with emotion.

Kyrgios’ head must have been swirling, but he had to regain his focus with the world number one on the other side of the court.

It looked ominous when Nadal took the first set, but Kyrgios rallied to level the match before a crucial third-set tie-break went the way of the Spaniard. Again, there were signs of his concentration dropping, and a smashed racket to boot, but Kyrgios’ determination could not be questioned, his will to win plain to see.

Another lost tie-break in the fourth eventually saw the curtain close on Kyrgios’ campaign, but although it is another Grand Slam gone without him making in-roads on his quest for a first major, belief has grown, rather than diminished, that he can make this a reality.

To do so, Kyrgios will need to maintain this mentality, this desire to win as well as entertain. He will forever tread the line when out on court, but channel those emotions the right way – as he has done this past month – and he can surely reach the latter stages in Grand Slams to come.

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