Nick Kyrgios jumped to the defence of mixed doubles partner Amanda Anisimova this week. Picture: AAP/Michael Dodge
Nick Kyrgios jumped to the defence of mixed doubles partner Amanda Anisimova this week. Picture: AAP/Michael Dodge

Groth: 'Real' Kyrgios was hiding in plain sight

NICK Kyrgios has changed. And maybe it's about time we did, too.

It's too easy to call this "The New Nick" - but it's not as simple as that.

It's the Nick that's always been there, and we've seen it in glimpses. It's just the Nick we haven't seen enough of.

I've known Nick for a long time. Being from Albury, I grew up playing tournaments in Canberra, often against his older brother, Christos.

Nick would always be around, the chubby kid in basketball singlets swinging a racquet around. But boy, has he grown up - Thursday night's match against Gilles Simon showed that.

There's no doubting he has a few facades.

There's the funny Nick, who impersonates other players and has a laugh.

Sam Groth (L) celebrates with Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Lleyton Hewitt. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty
Sam Groth (L) celebrates with Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Lleyton Hewitt. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty

There's swagger Nick, with the basketball singlet and bandana sitting sideways in his press conference chair.

There's caring Nick, who does so much for charity with his foundation and what we've seen with the bushfires.

There's meltdown Nick - we've all got one of those in us, don't deny it.

But under all that, there's still that great kid who cares about his family and friends and can play serious tennis.

He has never been a bad person. Ever. So many times we've linked his tennis persona with being a bad person. That's just not fair.

 

 

 

I saw Nick in the corridors under Melbourne Park the day before the Simon match, and something was definitely different.

I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but you know when you see someone you haven't seen for a while and it strikes you that gee, they look so well? That was it.

He looked so relaxed - so free. Just like he did in those first two sets against Simon.

It was special to watch him dictate the play like we know he can and produce shots that are as if he made them up himself.

It's truly scary.

But scary can often be the place that tennis can take you mentally - we've all been there.

When things turned after he was 4-2 up, everyone was probably thinking "oh no".

But all I could think was "yes Nick - channel this".

Sometimes those situations are vital - blow off the steam like you have to, but it's so important to channel that frustration in the right way.

OK, maybe those few choice phrases shouldn't have been so directed at his player box, but he admitted that later.

But he was able to reset, dig in and pull himself out of the hole.

That was another step, and is a key element of top players that many don't possess. Many stay in the hole, madly scratching at the walls and can't find their way out.

Lleyton Hewitt sat in the front row of the box - as steely focused as ever. Once that cap goes on, Lleyton is in the zone and by the looks of it working with Nick that's no different.

Lleyton Hewitt has been perfect for Kyrgios. Picture: AAP/Joe Castro
Lleyton Hewitt has been perfect for Kyrgios. Picture: AAP/Joe Castro

Nick said Hewitt has been "good for support", and why wouldn't he be? He's the perfect man for the job, in my eyes.

He was the guy who carried the hopes and expectations of this country for that long.

Obviously Rusty was already at the top of the game, but his behaviour got headlines, too. But he was able to turn things around to the point where everyone loves him.

He can offer great insight.

The probationary period Nick has been placed on by the ATP Tour - while it doesn't apply here at the Australian Open - might have a bit to do with it, too.

ATP Cup put him in a team environment to start the year, and that combined with everything going on in Australia, gave him something bigger to play for.

He can translate that into his singles game.

Emerging Russian Karen Khachanov awaits on Saturday. But if Nick brings what he did against Simon to another level again, he should be playing on Monday, probably against Rafael Nadal.

Can he win a grand slam? Absolutely. Can he win this grand slam? Who knows? We're two matches in.

But let's just enjoy the journey - and this version of Nick. It's a hell of a lot of fun.