It was all smiles in the sunshine on Wednesday as Australian tennis bad boys Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic enjoyed a breezy hit out at the Kooyong Classic.
“He looks happy, he looks healthy, that’s the main thing. To see him with a smile on his face and enjoying the crowd – he can make a run at the Australian Open for sure,” Nick Kyrgios said after his match against Tomic in front of a supportive crowd.
UNPRECEDENTED SCENES on match point as Bernard Tomic has defeated @NickKyrgios in first-ever clash! 🇦🇺👀 Our EXCLUSIVE, LIVE, FREE & HD coverage of day 2 @KooyongClassic action continues right now! #sbstennis https://t.co/qLdmLjB9Ko pic.twitter.com/Gj79mu6hVE
— SBS Sport (@SBSSport) January 9, 2019
Tomic prevailed 6-4 6-3 in a 45-minute exhibition match that showcased the pair’s luxuriant skill sets without testing their temperaments.
Tomic was relaxed after the match and was clearly enjoying his tennis.
“It was good, another practice day. Nick and I have played a lot of practice in our lives. We’ve played each other so many times we know exactly what we’re going to do, so it’s like a bit of cheating,” Tomic joked.
Tomic broke the Kyrgios serve in the fourth game of the first set to take a 3-1 lead with a mixture of looping groundstrokes and deft drop shots that were reminders of his prodigious touch.
He consolidated the break with a service game to love at 5-2 while Kyrgios was struggling with his consistency and control. Tomic then peeled off two big aces to claim the first set 6-3.
There was just the one break of serve in the seventh game of the second set as Tomic won the match.
Tomic and Kyrgios clearly have a good rapport, with the Gold Coast native taking a cheeky dig at Kyrgios before their Kooyong hit out, questioning the Canberran’s mental fragility.
“We’re good friends and it’s good for us to play. He’s needing it more than anything because he’s a little bit mentally struggling right now,” Tomic said.
Tomic’s task ahead
Tomic has been on a mission to rescue an alarming ranking slide which saw him drop to 243 in the world after a miserable start to his 2018 campaign.
The former world No.17 found himself struggling in qualifiers for grand slam events, and it reached its nadir in September when he lost to fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis in an attempt to make the main draw of the US Open, and was accused of tanking.
A late-season return to the challenger series saw Tomic rediscover some spark, winning the inaugural Rafa Nadal Open in Spain. He then backed that up with his first ATP tournament success in three years at the Chengdu Open in China, where he defeated Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
He clearly feels he can build on that run of form to climb back into the top ATP top 20.
“I obviously didn’t play a lot of tennis last year and that was my fault. It’s OK. Now I’m happy. The last three months were good. I hope this year I can target the top of the world (rankings) and that’ll be my goal,” Tomic said.
All open for Kyrgios
Kyrgios will enter the Australian Open ranked 51st in the world, well below his career high of 13 from October 2016.
A persistent elbow injury and accusations of poor attitude and tanking matches continued to dog him throughout 2018 and he admitted that he has sought the services of a sports psychologist to help rectify his behaviour.
He was also in a positive frame of mind after the match.
“It was a lot of fun, to get back out here at Kooyong and to play a good mate like Bernie. We grew up together so to see him back on the court having success, it looks like he’s picking up momentum,” Kyrgios said.
Kyrgios is happy with his preparation for the Australian Open.
“I played some fast-four the other night in Sydney. I played some good tennis against Rafa. I just wanted to get back out there today, hit some serves, face some returns and get some match preparation,” he said.
Australian tennis fans are wary of being too excited about local prospects as the tournament approaches, given the long drought since an Australian champion was crowned in either the men’s or women’s draw.
Kyrgios believes there is a reason for optimism.
“I feel we are two (players) who can make deep runs at the Australian Open, but also we’ve got [Alex] de Minaur, [John] Millman. We’ve got so many players, it’s an exciting time for Australian tennis,” Kyrgios said.
‘We’ve got such a wide variety of players. We all play differently and it’s looking really good.”
Australia’s top-ranked player de Minaur (29) will face fellow Australian Jordan Thompson in the quarter-final of the Sydney International tournament after seeing off 211-centimetre American Reilly Opelka 6-4 7-6 (5).
The two Australians will meet on Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney on Thursday.