Kyrgios pushing for Davis Cup singles
Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter is set to parachute 18-year-old excitement machine Nick Kyrgios into the singles hot seat for Australia's crucial tie with France this month.
Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter is set to parachute 18-year-old excitement machine Nick Kyrgios into the singles hot seat for Australia’s crucial tie with France this month.
Rafter admits he was as impressed as everyone else who witnessed Kyrgios light up Margaret Court Arena until the wee hours of Friday morning at the Australian Open.
Kyrgios ultimately lost his second-round encounter in five sets to seeded Frenchman Benoit Paire, but still had the likes of Roger Federer, Jim Courier and Victoria Azarenka all predicting a big future for the world’s top-ranked teenager.
Rafter, though, revealed the future was now and said both Kyrgios and 17-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis were under consideration for the second singles position to back up Lleyton Hewitt for Australia’s first World Group appearance in seven years.
“Both Thanasi and Nick are in the mix to play singles,” Rafter told AAP on Friday.
With Bernard Tomic in serious doubt for the indoor claycourt tie in La Roche sur Yon starting on January 31 and Australian No.2 Marinko Matosevic winless in 14 Davis Cup or grand slam matches, Rafter admitted he’d been considering the talented youngsters – dubbed the Special Ks – even before they each made the second round at Melbourne Park.
“Nick’s got x-factors about him,” Rafter said.
“Not only does he have a big serve and a big forehand, he has the right temperament to play the big points at the right time.
“Both him and Thanasi understand those type of situations.
“There was a problem last night in that Nick had far too many big-point occasions.
“You’ve got to try to limit the amount of big points that you have on your own serve, limit the pressure points, and create a lot more opportunities on their opponents serve.
“But they both have the ability to play the big points like seasoned pros.”
Kyrgios stood within two games of beating Paire – who some judges have tipped as a future world No.1 – in straight sets.
“We got what we expected from Nick last night,” Rafter said.
“It went to plan and, to me, the plans show that the kid’s going to be good this year and the signs are there that everything’s on track.”
If he had to be critical, Rafter felt Kyrgios paid for “a few junior errors” against Paire.
“Like not seizing the moment at the right time, and his body language,” he said.
“It’s fine for the next couple of years to be young and to enjoy himself, but this is men’s tennis now and there’s a little bit of his strut that we need to control a little bit, just to show respect for the other players.”
Rafter acknowledged it was important to curb Kyrgios’ enthusiasm without robbing him of his exuberance.
“That’s his personality. You never want to stop someone from being who they are,” he said.
“But sometimes you just have to pull it back a bit.”
Kokkinakis didn’t take any sets from Rafael Nadal, but still also won the respect of the tennis world in his 6-2 6-4 6-2 second-round loss to the top seed earlier on Thursday night.
Rafter said it was exciting times for Australian tennis and, after years of criticism, credited Tennis Australia’s development program for the rise of the Special Ks.
“This has been seven or eight years in planning for the junior players and they’ve made the right call,” he said.
“It takes a long time to produce players.”