NICK Kyrgios may feel brave enough to take on Stan Wawrinka in a game of trash talking, but he would not dare take on Andy Murray ahead of their first- round encounter at the US Open today.
Australia’s great hope has been making more waves with his behaviour than his tennis of late, insulting Wawrinka and his girlfriend, Donna Vekic, during a match in Montreal earlier this month, but when it comes to Murray, Kyrgios shows nothing but respect. He has lost to the Scot three times in a row and has failed to win a single set – even the bad boy Kyrgios knows real talent when he sees it.
“I think any player, they’re going to struggle against Andy,” Kyrgios said. “He’s got such great defence. He barely misses a ball out there. He competes really well and I think he’s one of the best athletes on tour as well.
“He’s in form, probably playing the best tennis of his life, winning Montreal and losing to Federer last week, pretty tight, so I know that he’s one of the best players in the world at the moment. I just have to go out there and play the right style of game and believe I can win. That’s what it is. I’ve got to go out there believing I can win.”
Kyrgios is anything but predictable – that is one of his strengths – but Murray always finds a way to nullify the big man’s strengths and then play with his confidence. Mixing up his game and never giving the Australian the same challenge two games running, Murray has – so far – been too experienced and simply too good for the 20-year-old world No 37.
But, as the media storm has enveloped Kyrgios this summer, Lleyton Hewitt has appeared at his elbow to offer a few words of support and advice. This is Hewitt’s last US Open and once he bids his final farewell to the Australian Open in January, he will retire from the circuit and take up a new role as Australia’s Davis Cup captain.
Injuries permitting, Kyrgios, together with Thanasi Kokkinakis, ought to be the backbone of Hewitt’s team for years to come, so any help he can offer now can only serve the team well for the future.
“Obviously having Lleyton on court has helped me a lot,” Kyrgios said. “I’m feeling pretty good, obviously getting some good practices in – I feel like I’ve been practising well, my preparation’s been really good and I feel like I’m playing some really good tennis. I feel like I’m in pretty much the best shape I’ve been in this year. I’m injury free. I feel like I can win. I’ve played him three times now. I know what his strengths are and know how to play it. I just have to execute it on the day.”
Murray, who made his own mistakes when he was starting out, has grown into one of the elder statesmen of the tour. He got married in April and just this month announced that his wife, Kim, is expecting their first child in February. He looks happy, settled and at ease with his lot – and when Murray is happy, he plays his best tennis.
Usually reserved and very protective of his private life, Murray opened up to the New York Times yesterday and revealed the secret of a happy marriage: don’t spend too much time together.
“I’ve found that spending a bit of time apart isn’t actually a bad thing,” he said. “If you spend two or three weeks apart, and then you do get to see each other, you appreciate it more. You spend six months with each other, then every single day you start arguing about little things.
“When we spend a bit more time apart, the time that we do spend together, we actually appreciate it more. We don’t have to travel with each other every single week to make it work.”
Describing his wife as “very protective, very loyal”, Murray admitted that Kim “has a bit of a temper on her as well”. But despite the time spent apart and the endless travel, the one aspect of her life that Mrs Murray hates above all others is appearing in the newspapers, particularly around Wimbledon time.
“I know she doesn’t like that and doesn’t want that. We’ve never asked for that. It’s not something that she courts. She doesn’t like being in the newspapers, and people commenting on what she’s wearing and how she looks, and those sorts of things.
“That’s one of the things that I guess she’s also sacrificed, a little bit, for our relationship, and I appreciate that a lot. But hopefully there’s only a few more years left of it, and then we can get away from all of that stuff.”
When Murray won the Madrid Masters in May, his first clay-court Masters title and his first victory over Rafael Nadal on clay, he scribbled “marriage works” on the courtside camera lens. And clearly it does as the Scot has played some of the best tennis of his career since he tied the knot – and Kyrgios will find out just how well marriage works later today.