MELBOURNE • Melbourne's notoriously changeable weather threatened to wash out the soft launch of the Australian Open near Melbourne Park yesterday.
Yet, the rain was unable to dampen the cheer among tournament organisers enthused by Nick Kyrgios' weekend victory in Japan.
The tempestuous 21-year-old, Australia's brightest hope of a men's grand slam champion since two-time winner Lleyton Hewitt, clinched the Japan Open on Sunday with an impressive 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over rising Belgian David Goffin.
Kyrgios clobbered 25 aces past Goffin but a more telling statistic might have been the zero tantrums committed by the Australian during the tense three-setter.
The prospect of a fit, in-form and happy Kyrgios making a deep run at the Australian Open would be a dream outcome for the organisers who, for the first time, will promote the tournament in China, Singapore and Japan.
"It's a long journey; it's a long-term journey when it comes to Nick," a wary Tennis Australia chief executive officer Craig Tiley said .
"But he's certainly, we've felt, more recently turned the corner.
"His performances this past week has been tremendous in winning his third professional title. There's a lot of pressure on him. We do what we can. We have a long-term view of it."
Australian Davis Cup captain Hewitt said it is time for Kyrgios to take the next step and seriously challenge for a grand slam title.
Sunday's win lifted Kyrgios to world No. 14, and Hewitt said the small group of elite players at the top of the men's game is within the Canberra-born player's reach.
"He's showing he's good enough to make the quarter-finals at the grand slams, but he's got to really push towards the semis and then the finals," Hewitt said.
"You're going to have to beat a few good players along the way, you're going to have to be able to bounce back after five-set matches physically and mentally."
Kyrgios' best run at the Australian Open came last year when he reached the quarter finals before losing to Britain's Andy Murray in straight sets.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN