Nick Kyrgios may rub you the wrong way, but you can't deny his innumerous skills on a tennis court. Just consider the following: the No. 16-ranked Aussie, only 21 years old, owns the distinct exploit of having defeated Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in his career-first encounters with the Grand Slam legends, and now owns 11 victories over Top-10 players.
"That's why I play the game, I guess -- [to] play the best people in the world at some of the best venues in the world," said Kyrgios, who returned to the tour in January following an eight-week suspension for match-tanking at the Shanghai Masters. "I never had a problem getting up for those matches. I think it's more the matches in the backcourts against the guys that are really trying to grind it out -- they're the matches that are dangerous to me."
Kyrgios stayed away from danger on Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open, charting a fairly routine 6-3, 6-4 win over one of those very same grinders he was referring to: Argentinean Horacio Zeballos. The win set up a mouthwatering #NextGen showdown with world No. 20 Alexander Zverev in what will be their first ATP World Tour encounter. The match will bring together perhaps the two most promising players in the game. Kyrgios will surely be bolstered by his wins over the aforementioned elite, especially his 7-6(9), 7-5 triumph over Djokovic earlier this month in Acapulco, where he more than excelled from the service stripe and even saved a pair of set points.
"I got a lot of confidence from that," said Kyrgios, who's also playing doubles here, with another Serb, Nenad Zimonjic, a man 19 years his senior. "I knew everyone was waiting for us to match up. I knew I had to have a great serving day. I think he's the most complete player of everyone I have ever played. I have drawn a lot of confidence from that."
"I hit 25 aces in two sets probably against the best returner in the world," he continued. "I knew I could serve at a high level. [The] serve is one thing you can control every match. It's in your control."
When Kyrgios takes the court against his onetime junior foe Zverev, he'll be doing so as a solo act. He is currently touring without a coach.
"I'm obviously looking, but it's not easy," said Kyrgios of his hunt for an ideal match. "I want to try and find somebody who cares about me first as a person rather than just my tennis. But it's hard. I'm struggling in the start of the year, and then I finally get in a good space and I beat Djokovic. [But] that's not what I'm thinking about at the moment. I'm just trying to stay happy and in a good place mentally. I think it's carrying over to my tennis at the moment. That's the main thing I'm doing right now is trying to stay happy on the court and try to enjoy myself."
The fiery Canberran insists his current coach-less status isn't due to a lack of suitors.
"Everyone puts their hand up. And anyone who says they're not is a liar, because I know they are," he asserted. "I'm just trying to stay happy. I think it all starts in practice. I'm trying to really just put my head down and practice and train hard. That's where it starts, I think... I'm not saying everyone wants to coach me. But if you ask someone and they're like, ‘Oh, I'm not interested,' they probably are. I guess they see a lot of potential in me to improve and they are excited to come with me on my journey. They know there is going to be a lot of ups and downs. That's what makes it interesting."
Interesting? No doubt. The real question is, will there be more ups than downs?