Nick Kyrgios has lavished praise on Naomi Osaka and feels her work off the court surpasses her on-court achievements. The Australian player also believes he is similar to Osaka and that their off-court personalities continue to inspire many people.
Kyrgios is in the Japanese capital Tokyo for his first tournament since the US Open - the Rakuten Japan Open. He took the opportunity to express his thoughts on Naomi Osaka and her contribution to the world of tennis.
Speaking during an interview with the official website of the Rakuten Japan Open, the World No. 20 spoke about why he feels he is similar to Osaka in one particular aspect.
“Naomi, I love what she brings to the sport," Nick Kyrgios said. "I think she's an amazing athlete. She can play some great tennis, but what she can do off the court is even more inspirational."
"She has so many people looking up to her. She inspires millions of people and I think that's something that I bring, as well."
While Osaka and Kyrgios have not crossed paths on the tennis court yet and haven't played mixed doubles together, they have been associated on a professional level for the past few months. Osaka's sports management agency Evolve signed Nick Kyrgios as their first athlete back in June.
Shortly before the 2022 US Open, Kyrgios also opened up about how Osaka inspired him to speak about his battle with mental health issues.
"That kind of opened my eyes saying, 'Wow, there's another tennis player as great as the champion she is, that was also going through that,'" Nick Kyrgios said of Osaka, according to PEOPLE magazine. "Made me feel more comfortable to open up about it," he added.
Kyrgios also expressed his admiration for another Japanese tennis superstar in Kei Nishikori.
"Kei is a nightmare matchup for me" - Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios called Kei Nishikori "a nightmare matchup" for him and suggested that the former US Open finalist is the toughest opponent of his career so far. Kyrgios hailed Nishikori's agility and baseline game, admitting that he has not been successful when playing against Nishikori over the years (Nishikori has won all four matches against Kyrgios).
"I get asked so many times who I think is the hardest player to play. For me personally, Kei is a nightmare matchup for me," Kyrgios said in his interview with the Rakuten Japan Open. "He returns extremely well, he plays so aggressive from the back of the court. He's very tricky and I haven't had much success against him at all."
Nishikori had earlier expressed his intention to play in the Japan Open, but decided to withdraw as he is still recovering from his hip surgery. Kyrgios stated that Nishikori's absence will certainly be felt in the locker room and looked forward to seeing him on the tour.
"It's unfortunate to not see him around because, as probably one of the best Asian players ever to play, you want to see these types of players in these tournaments... He's a great guy, he's well-liked in the locker room, he's super friendly. I hope to see Kei back on Tour as soon as possible, he's definitely a big part of it," Kyrgios added.
Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios opens his Japan Open campaign in the round of 32 against Taiwanese player Tseng Chun-hsin. The Australian player is seeded fifth at this year's Japan Open.