Nick Kyrgios says it is “win win” drawing Thanasi Kokkinakis in the US Open first round as he grapples with home sickness, fatigue and the new-found pressures of being an in-form grand slam finalist.
After four months on the road, Kyrgios says he cannot return home to Canberra quickly enough to see his family and sick mother.
But first the Wimbledon runner-up has another slam to attend to, starting with an uncomfortable centre-court meeting with his friend and Australian Open-winning doubles partner on Monday night (11am Tuesday AEST).
“Obviously you never want to play a good mate first round,” Kyrgios said before an early evening practice session at Flushing Meadows. “I’ve played a lot of mates this swing – Alex de Minaur in Montreal, [Frances] Tiafoe in Washington, [Jack] Sock in doubles.
“Playing Alex was a nightmare, honestly. There’s a couple of guys on tour I’ll never cross the line with because my relationships are so good with them and Thanasi is one of them. So I definitely have to find the balance of going out there and competing and at the same time just enjoy the moment.”
Kyrgios said it it was particularly tough to strike Kokkinakis in round one.
“I wouldn’t mind if it was the third, fourth or quarter-finals stage,” he said. “But I feel like it’s a great section of the draw so whichever one of us advances has a great opportunity to capitalise.
“I feel like both of us could have had good results but, in a way, it’s a blessing – centre court at Ashe, the nerves will be there but they’ll settle quite quickly because we are playing each other.”
The Special Ks have never clashed in the pro ranks but Kyrgios won both his junior battles with Kokkinakis, including the 2013 Australian Open boys’ final.
“Again, it’s just another tennis match,” Kyrgios said. “Whether or not I win or lose, it’s going to be the same for me. If I lose, I get to go home. If I win, it’s more money and another great result.
“There’s so much been going on at home. My brother’s had a baby, my mum’s sick. It’s just hard to be away. It’s definitely weighing on me every day longer that I’m on the road.
“I just want to go home but I know there’s an important event here so I’ve just got to put it to the side.”
With 16 wins from his past 19 matches and an historic singles-doubles title double in Washington, Kyrgios is among the Open favourites.
But the 27-year-old says “a big part of me just wants the US Open to be over so I can go home”.
“It’s brutal not being able to have the normality of your own bed or your own family for so long and then you have to deal with all this,” Kyrgios said.
“The media, the fans, the training, the matches, the pressure, especially on my spectrum as well – it’s not normal.
“So it’s hard. It’s really hard so I’m definitely feeling very exhausted. Just after Wimbledon, I didn’t even have time to enjoy it.
“I went straight to Atlanta; I won the [doubles] tournament there and didn’t get to enjoy it. Then straight to Washington; I won there. Montreal. It was a shit show, to be honest.
“Everyone gets to go home on the tour. They get to take a cheeky little flight back home to reset. There’s just no other type of tennis player [who] really understands that [homesickness] apart from the Australians.”