Nick Kyrgios branded a ‘superstar’ like Nadal and Federer after latest Australian Open row
Andy Murray discusses his tennis future aged just 14
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Former world No 1 Mats Wilander has insisted that Nick Kyrgios belongs in the same ‘superstar’ bracket as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as a result of his unrivalled entertainment value. The 26-year-old is currently pushing for a remarkable doubles title at the Australian Open alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis after crashing out of the singles tournament earlier this week.
Kyrgios was dumped out of his home Grand Slam by Daniil Medvedev in the second round but has enjoyed a stronger doubles campaign with Kokkinakis.
They will face Michael Venus and Tim Putz in their quarter-final clash on Monday as Kyrgios chases his first Major title in any capacity.
The hot-headed world No 115 is no stranger to controversy and has already made the headlines at this year’s Australian Open after a bizarre post-match argument with the fitness trainer of Olympic doubles champions Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic.
However, he has also been delivering on the court in Melbourne to cement his status as a fan favourite ahead of the business end of the tournament.
Wilander, who won the Australian Open on three occasions during his playing career, believes that Kyrgios is a born entertainer and can now be considered among the likes of Nadal and Federer as a genuine icon of the sport.
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“It is fantastic for the tournament,” he told Eurosport when quizzed on Kyrgios’ impact at the Australian Open so far.
“Superstars are made of people going [to matches] to get their expectations fulfilled. When you go and see Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal you get your expectations fulfilled whether they win or not.
“Nick Kyrgios, I have to say, when he’s on the big stage we have expectations of him. And he fulfils them whether he wins or loses.
“He delivers just like all entertainers do. He’s so good for the game, he really is. I just wish that when he’s not keen to play tennis that he just doesn’t show up.
“But hopefully those days are over and he’s just enjoying it. It seems like he’s enjoying it more than normal.”
Kyrgios’ biggest achievement to date at this month’s Grand Slam in Melbourne came in the form of a sensational doubles win alongside Kokkinakis over Pavic and Mektic in the second round of the tournament.
The Aussie pair have since beaten Gonzalo Escobar and Ariel Behar to progress to the quarter-final stage after a strange locker-room incident in the aftermath of their previous win.
Kokkinakis told reporters earlier this week that he and Kyrgios used the gym facilities after their victory over Pavic and Mektic but were angrily confronted by the Croatian duo’s fitness coach in an unorthodox post-match row.
“Mate, it was pretty funny, I’m not going to lie,” explained Kokkinakis during a press conference.
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“Me and Nick were trying to be professionals so we went into the gym after our doubles match for maybe one of the first times ever.
“I’m going to be honest, it was Pavic’s fitness trainer, he came up and smashed a foam roller against a pole as hard as he could.
“I thought he was kind of joking, I wasn’t sure if he was about to berate his players. He came up to Nick and said we were being disrespectful.
“Nick hit an opponent with a ball but that’s normal, these doubles players have got unbelievable hands so you have to go at them.
“They said we were showboating but I’m sure if we played away in Croatia it would’ve been the same thing.”
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