'One of the best', Kyrgios ready for tilt at Australian Open title

FILE PHOTO: ATP Finals Turin
Tennis - ATP Finals Turin - Pala Alpitour, Turin, Italy - November 14, 2022 Australia's Nick Kyrgios reacts during the group stage doubles match against Britain's Neal Skupski and Netherlands' Wesley Koolhof REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

SYDNEY, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Australia's Nick Kyrgios proved last year that he can play as well as anyone in the world and the 27-year-old heads into the main draw at his home Grand Slam for the 10th time next week with expectations high, not least from himself.

Runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarter-finals at the U.S. Open in 2022 suggested he might finally have found the balance in his life that would enable him to get the best out of his undoubted talent.

Tennis great and compatriot Rod Laver said after the U.S. Open that only self-belief was preventing Kyrgios from joining the Grand Slam winners' club.

Boasting one of the best serves in men's tennis, the complete arsenal of shots, and an aggressive game that can trouble any player, Kyrgios knows he has all the tools to do so.

"I am one of the best players in the world," he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

"I'm definitely going to go into any tournament, the Australian Open, with confidence, and I think I've proven I can go deep at a Grand Slam.

"So hopefully ... with Australia on my back, it can be a good couple of weeks."

Whether he can sustain his top level through a fortnight of five-set tennis at Melbourne Park after having not played on tour since last October remains to be seen.

Kyrgios decided not to play the United Cup and pulled out of an Adelaide warm-up because of an ankle injury, leaving him short of the long hours of match time that preceded his runs deep into the last two Grand Slams.

Further complicating his task could be the draw as the lack of rankings points awarded for Wimbledon last year means he starts the tournament as only 20th seed.

47-YEAR DROUGHT

His best run at his home major was seven years ago when he reached the quarter-finals, with fourth-round appearances in 2018 and 2020 his other ventures into the second week of the Australian Open.

Ash Barty last year rode a tidal wave of support to end the long wait for a homegrown singles champion at the Australian Open - a drought that stands at 47 years for the men's title.

Unlike the now-retired three-times Grand Slam champion, Kyrgios has not always been popular with all of his compatriots as a result of his frequent clashes with officialdom and fans.

"Winning solves everything, Australia just loves to get behind a winner," Kyrgios said on Thursday.

"I'm not looking too far ahead, I'm just hoping to take it step by step, I'm not looking forward in the draw at all. I know there's a lot of capable players who are able to do damage.

"It's kind of different for me as one of the favourites, usually I'm a dark horse. This is the first time I've felt like one of the guys who can take the trophy."

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, Editing by Himani Sarkar

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