Nick Kyrgios admits he’s feeling the pressure that comes with being billed as the hottest prospect in men’s tennis.
The Australian teenage sensation launches his US Open bid on Monday still trying to accept the newfound fame that followed his Wimbledon slaying of world No.1 Rafael Nadal.
Ranked 840th before winning last year’s Australian Open junior crown, Kyrgios has rocketed to 59th in the world and has sponsors clamouring to have the 18-year-old endorse everything from underwear to, of course, tennis racquets and shoes.
The young man in no great hurry says, despite his unflinching belief and on-court showmanship, the burden of expectation isn’t so easy.
“It does weigh on me a lot actually sometimes,” Kyrgios said ahead of his first-round clash with Mikhail Youzhny.
“Like today, I was out on court and I was getting a bit frustrated just because of everything that’s been going on.
“It’s all happened really quickly for me. It’s sunk in a little bit but, at the same time, I think about it a lot still.
“Last year I was playing Futures and now I’m playing grand slams. It’s crazy.
“Seeing guys that you watch on TV and you just walk around the locker room and you’re potentially playing them, it’s pretty daunting at times.”
With a strong team and tight family for support, Kyrgios thinks he’s coping well but still wishes he could escape the glare.
“I try to but it’s tough to get away,” he said.
“I’m on my phone and I’m getting messages.
“I’m on Twitter, all that social media, so it’s almost impossible to get away from the game, especially at a young age as well.
“My ranking’s at, like 58, so I’m not at that stage where I can put everything out of my head.
“I’m always worrying about rankings and stuff, so it’s tough. I wish I could just not think about tennis for a couple of days. It’d be good.”
Right now, though, Kyrgios knows that’s impossible.
He’ll be the first Australian in action on day one at Flushing Meadows, up against a two-time US Open semi-finalist who last year rallied from 5-2 down in the fifth set to deny Kyrgios’s Davis Cup teammate Lleyton Hewitt a spot in the last eight.
“It’s going to be an awesome match,” Kyrgios said.
“He’s one of the better players that’s been on tour for a long time.
“He’s so consistent and making quarter-finals here last year, he obviously plays his best at the US Open.
“So I’m going to go out there and have fun. It’s another grand slam, it’s what you play for.”
Despite being less than 100 per cent due to lingering left arm injury, Kyrgios gives himself a shot of upsetting the 21st seed.
But it won’t be the end of the world if the former top-ranked junior can’t spring another grand slam boilover.
“Having a junior transition into the seniors doesn’t happen very often just because of the weight of all that expectation,” Kyrgios said.
“You’ve just got to stay patient and obviously the No.1 juniors do something right. They’ve obviously got the game. It just takes a bit of time.
“Definitely I’ve still got a long, long way to go to do what I want to do in this sport and what I want to achieve.
“So I’m bracing myself for the times when it’s going to be tough.”
Matt Ebden, who faces German Tobias Kamke, and Anastasia Rodionova, up against Italian Camila Giorgi, are the only other two Australians on show on Monday.
Australians in action on day one of the US Open on Monday (Tuesday AEST, prefix denotes seeding):
Men’s singles, first round
Nick Kyrgios v 21-Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
Matt Ebden v Tobias Kamke (GER)
Women’s singles, first round
Anastasia Rodionova v Camila Giorgi (ITA)