Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt says it’s time for Nick Kyrgios to take the next step and seriously challenge for a grand slam title after he claimed his third ATP tournament of the year.
Kyrgios won the biggest title of his career by defeating Belgian David Goffin in the Japan Open in Tokyo on Sunday.
The win lifted him to No.14 in the world and Hewitt says the small group of elite players at the top of the men’s game are within the Canberran’s reach.
“At the moment he’s showing that he’s good enough to make the quarterfinals at the grand slams, but he’s got to take that next step now and really push to towards the semis and then the finals,” Hewitt told reporters on Monday.
“But you’re going to have to beat a few good players along the way, you’re going to have to be able to bounce back after five-set matches physically and mentally, and that’s something that he’s getting better at.
“He’s certainly in that next group. There’s probably the big four or five (players) at the moment who keep putting their hands up and winning those titles.”
Kyrgios’ best run at his home grand slam came in 2015 when he won through to the quarterfinals where he lost to Britain’s Andy Murray in straight sets.
The mercurial 21-year-old has regularly drawn criticism for his well-documented on court outbursts, but Hewitt believes he is maturing as a player and as a person.
He said Kyrgios was a positive influence on the Australian team in September’s world group play-off win over Slovakia in Sydney and has committed to making Davis Cup a focus in 2017.
World No.23 Bernard Tomic will be Australia’s other main hope in the men’s draw at Melbourne Park in January.
But Hewitt admitted Tomic had some work to do in the off-season after a short-lived US Open campaign.
“He was playing pretty well going into the US Open then had a disappointing loss in the first round,” he said.
“He’s got to regroup, I think, and probably physically improve a bit better to be able to last over five sets and be able to back up.
“But Bernie always seems to come out and play extremely well throughout the Australian summer.”
Hewitt doubts he will play doubles at next year’s Australian Open, guiding the home side through the first round Davis Cup tie against the Czech Republic from February 3-5 his focus.