Coming into 2022 at his lowest ATP Ranking since he was an 18-year-old in 2014, Nick Kyrgios doesn’t expect any favourable draws early in the season. Not that he cares.
The World No. 93, who will turn 27 in April, will be unseeded in his return to the ATP Tour at next week’s Sydney Tennis Classic and at the Australian Open. But the Canberra native is just as likely to beat a Top 5 player as lose to someone outside the Top 50, so a draw is really just a piece of paper to him.
“If I’m ranked 1000 or 10 in the world everyone knows what I’m capable of on tour,” Kyrgios said Saturday. “I’m not a player that hasn’t proven himself… I talk a lot, but I also have beaten a lot of players and I have won a lot of tournaments.
“I won Acapulco unseeded and I beat four Top 10 players. So tough draws [don’t bother me]… That’s not something I’m focusing on, honestly. I just want to go out there and have fun. People are expecting me to put on a good show and I think I’m capable of doing that still.”
Kyrgios, who reached a career-high No. 13 in 2016 and was most recently in the Top 20 in February 2020, remains one of the game’s biggest stars despite his tumble in the rankings. And he regularly produces his best tennis at the Australian Open. Last year he led then-World No. 3 Dominic Thiem two sets to love before losing 6-4 in the fifth in the third round. One year earlier he defeated then-World No. 17 Karen Khachanov in a fifth-set tie-break before falling to Rafael Nadal in a fourth-set tie-break in the fourth round.
Kyrgios played just 15 matches last season and is making a delayed start to this year after withdrawing from this week’s Melbourne Summer Set due to asthma. Spending three or four days in bed with extreme fatigue, he initially thought he had Covid-19, but that thinking was disproved by multiple negative rapid antigen tests.
Still, he didn’t feel well enough to take to the court.
“Last week, with everything floating around these days, obviously I thought it was Covid,” he said. “I was feeling pretty average… I was testing with these rapid tests and all this other stuff, I was testing a lot, came back negative every single time.
“I just wanted to get over that. I still am feeling some effects, like my breathing is a little bit affected. I don’t feel 100 per cent on court as yet… I didn’t want to start last week at like 60 per cent… I didn’t want to go out there and force myself to play under those circumstances.”
Turns out that it was asthma that kept the six-time tour-level title winner sidelined.
“I’ve had asthma my whole life. I didn’t really realise how bad it was until I got tested,” he said. “When I tested at the AIS [Australian institute of Sport] maybe six years ago, they were almost surprised on how bad my asthma was.
“My grandma used to smoke packs of ciggies in the car and her windows were real old, so it took me like ages to roll down the window, and before that happened she had already smoked like two. So I was passive smoking from a young age. So that’s probably why my asthma is pretty bad.”
Kyrgios said that his extended break at home allowed him to fully rehab his knee and get himself into a good mental space ahead of the new season.
“Being home, doing the gym, getting the correct physio… having my team around me and having access to what a professional athlete should have access to [helped]. It feels good now.”
“I don’t really dedicate my life to tennis. I take every day how it is, like I just enjoy doing whatever I’m doing. I don’t train just for tennis. I train just for a general happy living. I like to feel good and I like to just enjoy my life.
“I know it sounds ridiculous, but I play a bit of tennis on the side.”