Just more than a year ago, Nick Kyrgios walked onto Rod Laver Arena for his fourth-round Australian Open match against Rafael Nadal wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey, with tears in his eyes just before the clash began. The Aussie was paying tribute to the NBA legend, who had just passed away in a tragic helicopter crash.
On Wednesday, after his second-round win at the Murray River Open against Harry Bourchier, Kyrgios spoke about how he continues to pay tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers icon. A couple months after last year’s Australian Open, Kyrgios got a large tattoo on his right arm to commemorate Bryant’s legacy.
“When I look down obviously it brings me back memories of how he would have competed, how he would have been remembered,” Kyrgios said. “I definitely feel as if when I’m on court, I feel like I’ve been around the Tour for a while now. I feel like I’m not going to get as angry as I used to. I just feel as if I know what style of tennis I need to be playing to win matches now.”
At 6/6 in the second-set tie-break against Bourchier, Kyrgios was the victim of bad luck when his fellow Aussie’s return trickled over the tape for a winner, giving Bourchier set point. But the 13th seed stayed calm and won in straight sets.
“Obviously I [get] frustrated, but I could have [gotten] angry today when he got the net tape to bring up the set point,” Kyrgios said. “I just stay composed, and that’s the way it is.”
Between Bryant’s passing and the COVID-19 pandemic, Kyrgios has increasingly put things in perspective on and off the court. This is the 25-year-old’s first tournament since Acapulco last February.
“My relationship with tennis can change in a minute, but I think me being away from it, I’m not getting as angry, I feel,” Kyrgios said. “But I don’t know, obviously it’s instilled a lot of perspective in everyone, but I feel like I’ve had that throughout my career anyway. I haven’t really acted as if tennis is the be-and-end-all for me.
“I just take it day by day. I don’t set any goals. I don’t want to say I’m going to play tennis for longer or shorter. I just want to take it day by day, show up every day, try and play good tennis, try and be positive, try and be a better role model than I was last year. That’s it.”
Photo Credit: Tennis Australia
Last year, Kyrgios competed for Australia in the ATP Cup as his country’s No. 2 singles player. While he did not make the roster this year, Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt spoke about Kyrgios before this year’s 12-country event.
“I think as a whole him having a bit of a break away from the sport, where he’s positioned, for his body and mind, I think is a good thing. Because he hasn’t played a match for so long, though, it’s not going to be easy for him just to come out and switch it on, either,” Hewitt said. “I think it’s perfect for him to hopefully get through a few rounds in one of the ATP tournaments that he’s playing this week. But from a whole, he looks to be hitting the ball well, clean, he relies on his serve and is serving big at the moment.”
Kyrgios will play fourth seed Borna Coric for a spot in the quarter-finals of the Murray River Open.