Lleyton Hewitt is being urged to rescue Nick Kyrgios after the troubled tennis star vowed to step up his search for a coach following his demoralising Australian Open exit.
Despite climbing to world No.13 and winning his first three ATP titles while flying solo in 2016, Kyrgios admits he desperately needs a full-time mentor as he fights to overcome his mental demons and fulfil his once-in-a-generation potential.
The 21-year-old cut a shattered figure after self-destructing in an extraordinary five-set second-round collapse against Andreas Seppi on Wednesday night.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the top 100 without a coach except for me. That needs to change,” Kyrgios said before being fined $US5500 for racquet abuse and swearing during his dramatic meltdown.
“Got to start taking it more seriously … Obviously I wasn’t physically 100 per cent, but it’s mental.”
Kyrgios is still receiving counselling from a psychologist as a condition of his early return from an eight-week ban for tanking at the Shanghai Masters in October.
But appointing a coach to help him harness his on-court emotions is now the priority.
Former Davis Cup captain and coach Wally Masur says Hewitt should be Kyrgios’ No.1 target.
As Davis Cup skipper, Hewitt is unlikely to be available to accept a full-time position but Masur would like to see the former world No.1 come to an arrangement.
He suggested a consultancy role or having Hewitt work with Kyrgios for 15-20 weeks a year – as Tony Roche did with Roger Federer during the Swiss great’s pomp – could be the best solution.
Hewitt already mentors Kyrgios and often hosts the mercurial youngster in the Bahamas.
“Could there be a better scenario than organically Nick and Lleyton sitting down and starting to work through that together?” said Masur, Tennis Australia’s managing director of performance..
“I was there at the Fast4 in Sydney (last week). Lleyton was on court with Nick and it works. Nick listens to him.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed that is a real positive for us moving forward.”
Just who will be Kyrgios’ next coach is one of the hottest topics at Melbourne Park.
But it’s also among the most sensitive issues.
“I’m staying out of that one,” Ivan Lendl, the supercoach to world No.1 Andy Murray, told AAP.
Despite his precocious talent, with John McEnroe last year hailing Kyrgios the most gifted player he’d seen in 30 years, the new-age tennis superbrat’s volatility and unwillingness to train or listen is a problem.
“I wouldn’t last one minute,” former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash told 3AW radio on Thursday.
“Same thing with Lleyton Hewitt, Bernie Tomic or Andy Murray – if they started screaming at me and abusing me up in the box, I’d pack it up and walk out.”
American Brad Gilbert, who boasts former world No.1s Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick among his former charges, said Kyrgios was unquestionably capable of scaling the sport’s summit.
Gilbert, though, isn’t interested in being the coach to help get him there.
“Don’t give me the job,” he said on ESPN.
“He needs someone that makes him accountable. Put together an unbelievable team around him and then who knows where he can go.
“He has unbelievable talent, but he’s not getting 30 cents on the dollar with his talent.”
Masur said Darren Cahill – who helped Hewitt become the youngest year-end world No.1 and then Agassi the oldest – should also be in Kyrgios’ sights after the esteemed coach recently returned home from the USA to live in Adelaide.