Mats Wilander backs Nick Kyrgios to win multiple grand slam titles
Mats Wilander has backed Nick Kyrgios to win multiple grand slam titles ahead of his Australian Open clash with Rafael Nadal.
The mercurial Australian will take on world number one Nadal in the fourth round at Melbourne Park in the most anticipated match of the tournament so far.
Kyrgios’ record against the biggest names – he has won five of his nine matches against Nadal and Novak Djokovic – as well as his showmanship is why he remains such a compelling talent despite a less-than-stellar grand slam record.
Wilander believes Kyrgios can emulate Stan Wawrinka, who won the first of his three slam titles here in 2014 at the age of 28 after learning how to make the most of his talent.
“I think Wawrinka is what I am really thinking when I see Kyrgios,” said seven-time slam champion Wilander, who is working as an expert for Eurosport.
“Extremely talented. Nick Kyrgios, physically, is a monster. When he is on the court and he runs, he flies. And he has got a massive arm.
“And so if you put him in the gym – and I believe with Wawrinka the same thing – he was always like he is but he was never fit enough. So I think Nick – is it a person or is it an event in his life? What is it that is going to change it?
“I think he will win a major and, if he wins one, he will win two. And then he wins five because he is that good.”
Kyrgios polarises opinion in Australia like no other athlete but his stock is currently high thanks to his efforts in leading tennis’ response to the wildfire crisis.
He has also not made any attempt to hide how much he cares about having a good run here and expended every ounce of energy to come through a five-set battle with Karen Khachanov amid raucous scenes on Saturday evening.
Wilander believes the support will help Kyrgios, saying: “I think every human being has good intentions in one aspect of life and some in every.
“And it seems he’s always had good intentions and a big heart when it comes to kids and to try to help out. Is that the effect of him being slightly out there and not professional on the court and he tries to make up off the court? Possibly.
“I think what’s he’s doing off the court’s going to help him understand that he can do more off the court if he becomes more of a predictable role model on the court, and with that is going to come a few wins because he’s now respected by his peers and they don’t mind losing to him in a way because he’s now doing his best all the time.
“As long as he’s not always doing his best, this is the guy in the locker room that I’m saying, ‘OK, listen, there’s no way I’m losing to this guy ever, because, if it doesn’t mean more to him than this, it means a lot to me’.”
Kyrgios and Nadal freely admit they are polar opposites when it comes to tennis and life in general, and there is an edge to the rivalry that is rare in the sport these days.
Kyrgios relishes taking on the Spaniard but knows he will have to be at his best if he is to gain revenge for last summer’s defeat at Wimbledon.
“Ever since juniors I enjoyed playing lefties,” said the 24-year-old. “I feel like I kind of know what game plan I need to bring to be successful against them.
“Rafa is a different beast altogether. I kind of know his patterns. (Roger) Federer knows his patterns. Everyone knows his patterns. He executes them at the highest level.”
:: Watch all courts, all matches of the Australian Open live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player