Nick Kyrgios: Australian Open 'Wild Thing' thrilling the fans

By Piers NewberyBBC Sport at Melbourne Park
Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios is ranked 53rd in the world
Australian Open 2015: Murray v Kyrgios
Dates: Tuesday, 27 January Court: Rod Laver Arena Time: 08:15 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.

Six months after pulling off a between-the-legs winner against Rafael Nadal on Centre Court, Nick Kyrgios has spent the last week reminding the world that he is something special.

The 19-year-old from Canberra has electrified this year's Australian Open and still has hopes of ending the nation's 39-year wait for a male champion.

British number one Andy Murray will have something to say about that when the pair meet on Tuesday (08:15 GMT) in a quarter-final that will be prime-time viewing across Australia.

"I would say maybe he's more confident than I would have been at that age," said Murray.

Nick Kyrgios hits between-the-legs winner against Rafael Nadal

"I didn't feel like I was going to win these events when I was that age, but I read that he felt like he could win the Australian Open this year a few weeks ago. So he obviously backs himself a lot."

That is putting it mildly. Asked how confident he was of beating Murray, the teenager responded: "I definitely believe that I can do it."

John McEnroe compared Kyrgios to Boris Becker after last summer's stunning win over Nadal at Wimbledon, and later in the year had him down as a top-five player; Goran Ivanisevic says top 10 for sure; Pat Cash believes he is "the real deal".

It is easy to forget that Kyrgios is ranked 53rd in the world and has won just one match on the ATP Tour, with those Grand Slam ranking points backed up by wins on the lower Challenger Tour. He is a man for the big stage.

Dubbed "Wild Thing" by the host broadcaster, Kyrgios has lived up to the nickname at the Australian Open even if he doesn't much care for it.

Five things about Kyrgios
Kyrgios is the son of a Greek father and Malaysian mother
Full name is Nicholas Hilmy Kyrgios
Kyrgios is a Tottenham Hotspur and Boston Celtics fan
He wore a purple suit when awarded 2014 Newcombe Medal for outstanding Australian player
He won the boys' title two years ago and was junior world number one

Smashed racquets, audible obscenities, conversations with the crowd, "cocky" on-court interviews, all among a blizzard of winners and aces - it has been impossible to take your eyes off him at Melbourne Park.

"I'm pretty emotional," he said. "I'm just learning every day how to contain that."

Away from the court he appears to be just as extrovert, although hardly wild, and regularly interacts with other players - including Murray - on social media, or can be seen high-fiving other young Aussie hopefuls in the corridors around Melbourne Park.

Tennis Australia will point to the structural changes they have made in recent years, but they surely cannot believe their luck.

Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios made a name for himself when he beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year

Kyrgios has emerged along with his good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis, a year younger at 18, the brilliant and apparently now more stable Bernard Tomic, and a growing base of male players that now numbers 12 in the top 200.

Bu in a country where talents such as Mark Philippoussis, Lleyton Hewitt and Tomic have all endured up-and down relationships with their public, there is plenty of caution too.

"I think the public is genuinely really wanting to like him, because like everyone we like winners," said Courtney Walsh, chief tennis writer for The Australian.

"But there is that history; even Cash was a young abrasive bloke, Hewitt put some people off initially, Philippoussis too. With Nick, I think people are still trying to figure out whether they should fully embrace him."

Pat Rafter is a former Australian great who has followed the federation route as Davis Cup captain and, from next month, director of performance for Tennis Australia.

The two-time US Open champion remains guarded, saying: "We can't get ahead of ourselves.

"I think sometimes they can get a little bit affected by a lot of hype and media. That's why we want to keep it very level. There probably are some players who get more attention than others."

Nine-times Wimbledon doubles champion Todd Woodbridge on Kyrgios
"For Australian audiences it's an extraordinary opportunity to watch a 19-year-old take on a Wimbledon champion. Our ratings in the fourth-round match hit 2.7m, which is an extraordinary number here for Australian viewers. If this match can get going that audience will be even bigger."Nick recovered well on Monday and looked pretty fresh and bouncy. I think the adrenaline will be so high that physically he will be alright. I think it's more down to the tennis aspect because Andy is so smart and experienced. He will make the youngster work hard, push him round the court, make the points longer and really test whether he is fit or not."

Kyrgios did not exactly buy in to that strategy when it was put to him last week, admitting: "I don't know what to say to that. He has his own opinion."

Former Wimbledon champion Cash has already questioned the wisdom of trying to shackle such an outrageous talent.

Todd Woodbridge, a nine-times Wimbledon doubles champion, was involved with the junior development of Kyrgios and had the unenviable task of trying to pin his feet to the floor.

"He has been spoken to and he has had all those discussions before, but the thing with Nick is that he has that X-Factor," said Woodbridge.

"When he's out on court, he's in the heat of the moment and not thinking about that. He's young, he's exuberant, and he's going to make mistakes. We're going to see him mess up occasionally. As he matures he will get better at that.

"Let's remember he's a teenager thrust in front of millions of viewers around the world, and that's not that easy to handle."

Kyrgios at the Australian Open
Aces - 97
Double faults - 18
Winners - 227
Unforced errors - 166
Time on court - 11hrs
Fastest first serve - 133mph
Fastest second serve - 124mph
Net points won - 47
Baseline points won - 257

Kyrgios has certainly had his moments on court, picking up a £2,600 fine for both racquet and verbal abuse in his first-round match last week, but his mother at least has suggested it is all a reaction to his innate shyness.

That might be a stretch, but he is close to his family and last year relocated from Melbourne to his native Canberra to be nearer home when in Australia, as well as to reunite with Todd Larkham, his childhood coach of seven years.

"He's a smart kid with a good team around him," added Walsh.

"He always has a family member travelling with him. His sister was at Wimbledon, his brother was in New York, his mum went to Malaysia at the end of the year, the family is all down here in Melbourne at the moment."

While his neon clothes, shaved eyebrows, glistening earring and brash talk might not be to everyone's taste quite yet, the 97 aces and 227 winners that have propelled him to a second Grand Slam quarter-final are winning people over fast.

At a loose end one evening last year, Kyrgios asked on Twitter whether there was "anything happening tonight in Melbourne",external-link and reportedly ended up at a stranger's house playing video games and eating pizza.

With 100,000 followers and rising, on the front and back of every newspaper, and featuring in every TV news bulletin, he will not be short of offers the next time he puts out the call.

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