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Nick Kyrgios: A talented youngster overshadowed by controversy

Australian tennis starlet Nick Kyrgios is never far from controversy. Can he put all that behind him and go on to be a Grand Slam champion?

Nick Kyrgios is making headlines for all the wrong reasons

It’s a well-known fact of the modern sporting sphere that contention courts certain players. Nick Kyrgios is one of them.

The loud-mouthed Aussie has embroiled himself in yet another controversy following his inexcusable comments about Stan Wawrinka’s girlfriend during the Rogers Cup, but this is not the first time the 20-year-old has found himself at the mercy of the world’s press – and if he’s not careful, it won’t be the last either.

A promising tennis player, he has injected some fire and bite into the sport ever since he first burst onto the scene back in 2013 when he won the Boys’ Singles Championship at the Australian Open. However, his careless words and actions have often sparked over to a more viscous side, and his recent misguided faux-pas is the action you’d expect more so from a petulant kid, and not a budding professional with a reputation to build.

No doubt, Kyrgios will be eager to put this whole spat behind him, though it’s hard to say he’ll ever be truly far from the burning spotlight of the media. In truth, he’d do well to make the headlines for his on-court victories in stead of his obstinate behaviour, something he’s really struggled to do convincingly.

So, let’s examine what the future could hold for him as we enter the tail-end of 2015.

U.S Open offers chance at redemption

Can he make a deep run at Flushing Meadows?

With the final Grand Slam of the year just around the corner, all of tennis’ elite players are putting together the final key steps towards preparation. Kyrgios, on the other hand, seems too occupied with getting into the news for all the wrong reasons, and it’s a fetish that could well scupper any hopes he’s held about putting in a good showing anywhere near Flushing Meadows in New York.

In reality, he should be treating these next few weeks as his last, delicate chance to salvage something uber-positive from this year, because not just a few short months ago he was being touted as one of the game’s brightest stars. Now, he’s being castigated as a pest and it’s all his own doing.

Should he view his run-in with Wawrinka as a wake-up call, he could still experience a reasonably enjoyable two weeks. Before all that, though, he’s going to have to ride the wave of criticism that’s currently headed his way. Better still, he’d be wise to harness its energy to his advantage (more on that later).

Getting to, or even beyond, the quarter-final stage would be a good result for the youngster and it would serve to draw attention away from what’s been a pretty underwhelming season so far which sees him dangerously close to recording his most amount of losses in a year since he turned pro. Reaching the last eight Down Under back at the start of the year was a great start that offered hope for the rest of the Slams, but a third-round exit to Andy Murray at Roland Garros, combined with a recalcitrant display against Richard Gasquet at SW19 means that all his tennis hopes are currently dangling from a star-spangled, American thread.

Play with passion, all his skill and with some much-needed grace in the States and the world of tennis could start to finally warm to him given time. Do anything else and he’ll not only find it hard to win fans over – he’ll find it tough to win matches, too.

Hewitt’s presence has capacity to ease a transition

How will the presence of Lleyton Hewitt inspire Nick Kyrgios?

Having recently made the bold decision to team-up with Kyrgios (and Thanasi Kokkinakis) in the wake of Todd Larkham’s departure before Wimbledon earlier this year, you have to wonder whether he has made a massive mistake. Can Hewitt really find a way to help the controversial Australian fulfill his potential? Will it be a step too far?

A lot of questions need answering over the course of the next few weeks, and the U.S Open could well provide us with the answers – if, that is, Hewitt sticks around.

Perhaps most revealing of all is the fact that Hewitt is not involved as a coach, having decided to take him under his wing on a more casual approach, something Kyrgios was keen to underline when the announcement was first made

He’s not my coach. Let’s clear that up now. He’s more of a mentor. Lleyton is very kind to take time away from his family and his career to help me and Thanasi. We don’t know how long it will last but it is a great help.

The likelihood is that with retirement not yet on the cards, the ageing right-hander has decided to keep a certain amount of distance. Another possibility is that Kyrgios is adamant that he maintains a certain level of autonomy over his own approach, training methods and regime. If that is the case, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that until the youngster relents more control and allows someone in, like a full-time coach, to give him the nudge in the right direction he clearly needs, he could fail to deliver consistently.

A top professional who knows a thing or two about reaching the pinnacle of his sport, Hewitt’s pearls of wisdom are ones his current understudy would be silly to ignore during their partnership together. What’s more is that the 34-year-old has the experience of becoming a success at such a young age when he became the youngest-ever man to be ranked World no.1 back in 2001. In short, this combination could turn out to be an incredible one, but it’s vital Kyrgios is open to moving forward, improving his game and changing in all the right ways.

Hewitt has some incredible expertise, years of hands-on experience as well as an impressive resumé; these traits could prove invaluable to Kyrgios, not only in the short-term, but in the long-run, too.

His fire can be a weapon, not a hindrance

A lot of big sports stars use their self-belief, bullish mentality and cockiness to make a name for themselves – it’s not an uncommon sight at all.

Unfortunately, Kyrgios has yet to back up his cock-sure attitude with the right results on a consistent basis and if he’s not careful he could wind up a broken has-been consoling himself with the memories of overcoming Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at Wimbledon and the Madrid Open respectively. After all, at least in tennis terms, those two wins were a life-time ago, and can only be referenced so many times before they become an over-looked footnote.

So, it’s vital the starlet from Canberra adds a few more high-profile scalps to his short-list in the coming weeks and tears himself away from the showmanship and hollowness of some of his performances since then. That’s the only way he’ll regain some of the respect he has fought hard to earn on the circuit since starting off. If he intends to get anywhere near – and beyond – his career high of being the world no. 25, he’ll certainly need to tone down his antics, though it would be naive to suggest he’ll leave that world behind him for good.

At the end of the day, playing with pride and panache is something every tennis fan loves to see. Kyrgios can bring that theatre to the scene in bucketloads, without question.

If he can learn to combine it with a mature push for silverware, too, there’s no telling just where his talents will bring him.

Perhaps 2016 can be his clean slate, and a Grand Slam might just be the reward for his efforts.

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