Nick Kyrgios could be Australia’s next big shot at a grand slam title, but the 20-year-old’s disregard for rules and fiery temper threaten to derail his budding career.
But a calming force may have entered his life: new girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic, 22, whose competitive nature, extreme focus and family values might help keep her wayward boyfriend on track.
The pair went public with their romance last week, after playing together at the Australian Open as mixed doubles partners.
Their couple status was further confirmed when Channel Seven cameras caught them canoodling on Tuesday.
Around Tomljanovic, Kyrgios is upbeat, gentle and almost unrecognisable as the man we’ve grown used to watching.
He’s even attributed recent on-court success to a “certain someone” we can only assume is Tomljanovic.
“I don’t have a coach, but I did get certain tips from a certain someone before the match,” Kyrgios said after defeating world No.2 Andy Murray at this year’s Hopman Cup.
“I’m not going to tell you who that is. Hopefully that can continue to come, and she can keep giving me tips.”
A video posted by Nicholas Kyrgios (@k1ngkyrg1os) on
Speaking about what it’s like to play alongside his off-court love interest, Kyrgios gushed about her effect on him.
“We were talking about it a long time ago,” he admitted of their decision to team up. “I sort of pictured it, us playing mixed doubles in front of our home crowd.
“She told me I was a bit too hard on myself out there. Just being on the court with her, I was in a nice place,” the world No.30 said in a post-match press conference on Saturday.
“It was a little bit tougher at times. It was good though. We practice a lot together. To be honest it was easy. I know what her tendencies are on court, I know what her strengths are so I know what she likes to do out there. It was easy.”
Tomljanovic, who is ranked 67th on the WTA tour, was decidedly less chuffed with their performance, in which they lost in straight sets to top seeds Ivan Dodig and Sania Mirza.
“It was fun but I don’t like losing. So at the end of the day I wish we could have done better,” Tomljanovic said.
This lack of enthusiasm might be due to the fact her partner answered a phone call before the match began – a no-no in the world of professional tennis, particularly in the midst of a match-fixing scandal.
Tomljanovic appeared incredulous when Kyrgios took the call, evidence of the professionalism and focus she exhibits on and off the court.
A fiercely ambitious import
Born in Croatia but based in Brisbane, Tomljanovic trained at Chris Evert’s academy in Boca Raton, Florida, from the age of 13.
In 2014 she suffered backlash in her birthplace when she applied for Australian residency and decided to play for her adopted country.
“I was sort of ready to get a bit of negativity, maybe because for them it was out of the blue, but for me it was my decision and I’m so happy with it that it’s hard for me to listen to the negativity,” she said of fans in Croatia who accused her of being a “traitor”.
Tomljanovic has been steadily climbing up the rankings since a bout of mononucleosis set her back to world No.495 in 2012.
“She was a great junior and wasn’t 100 per cent sure about being one of the top pros until the last six months, because there’s been a little shift in her game,” Evert said of her protege in 2014.
“She’s not as passive and she’s playing more aggressive, hitting the ball harder, her serve is much better, so she’s surprised me.”
A family-oriented animal lover
Tomljanovic’s private life is decidedly more subdued than her boyfriend’s – she favours dinners with family (father Ratko, mother Emina and sister Hana) and snuggle sessions with her dog over nightclubs.
When rumours about her relationship first started circulating, Tomljanovic shunned the spotlight and insisted she and Kyrgios were “just good friends”.
The rising star also boasts some friends in high places – she counts Evert as a mentor and American players Serena Williams and Madison Keys as close pals.
Based on her Instagram account, Tomljanovic has three dogs – Cooper, Kruz and Bella – which her family babysit while she travels the world.
Interestingly, photos of Kyrgios are nowhere to be seen on her social media.
Kyrgios clearly smitten
While Tomljanovic might be able to whip her boyfriend into shape, she could also serve as a distraction if their social media accounts are anything to go by.
Kyrgios’ Instagram profile photo is a snap of the pair together and he frequently posts on photos posted by Tomljanovic with affectionate comments like “best”, “bae” and “caption on point”.
Kyrgios and Tomljanovic are a clear match – aside from their love of tennis, the pair share a passion for basketball and a penchant for pink accessories.
Other tennis love matches
Dating within the world tour is risky business for both parties involved. Here are other players who have found love – and heartbreak – on the professional circuit.
Grigor Dimitrov and Maria Sharapova
Once hailed as sport’s hottest couple, the Bulgarian men’s world No.28 and the Russian women’s world No.5 split up in July 2015 after two years of dating. Prior to teaming up with Sharapova, Dimitrov dated Serena Williams – a factor many believe contributed to the pair’s fierce rivalry.
Jarmila Gajdosova and Sam Groth
Australian player Groth and Slovak-Australian player Gajdosova were married in 2009 and divorced two years later. The end of their relationship was far from smooth sailing – the pair made headlines in January 2011 when they had an on-court argument at the Brisbane International.
Gajdosova has since remarried to US marine pilot Adam Wolfe and has taken his name.
Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi
Agassi and Graf are one of tennis’ longest lasting couples – celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary this October. Both former world No.1s, the duo have two children, son Jaden and daughter Jaz, together.
Stanislas Wawrinka and Donna Vekic
It wasn’t long after Wawrinka split from wife Ilham Vuilloud in 2015 that he was rumoured to be dating teenage Croatian player Donna Vekic.
While the pair are yet to make a public appearance together, Kyrgios unceremoniously confirmed their relationship with he told Wawrinka “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend” during an August 2015 match.
Kokkinakis and Vekic have played as mixed doubles partners in the past.
Dominika Cibulková and Gael Monfils
Cibulkova, who is from Slovakia, and Monfils, from France, dated in 2008, and have since gone their separate ways. One of the most notable things about their relationship was their 30-centimetre height difference.