Nick Kyrgios said on Saturday that expectations he can go far at next week’s Australian Open were stressful and made it hard to focus.
But the divisive Australian also said he was humbled to be in a position where people considered him in with a real shot of winning his home Grand Slam.
“I think everyone wants to get to a position in their sport or their profession, be one of the best and have that expectation and pressure,” the talented but temperamental 27-year-old said.
“It’s a privilege to go out there and feel that Australia wants me to win and to be one of the favourites. It’s a good feeling.
“But there’s a lot of stress as well. I see it everywhere, on social media, everyone talking about it. How are you feeling about Australian Open? You’re one of the favourites.
“It’s hard to kind of just focus on what I need to do.”
While his frequent tantrums have long overshadowed his talent, the Australian had a stellar 2022, making a barnstorming run to a first Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon, before losing to Novak Djokovic.
His best showing at the Australian Open is the quarter-finals in 2015.
Kyrgios said his Wimbledon experience was a great learning curve and only reinforced his admiration for players such as Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
“I think it just kind of showed me how stressful getting to a Slam final is, dealing with the outside noise, media commitments, balancing on-court, off-court recovery,” the 19th seed said.
“These guys that have won multiple Grand Slams, they’re just animals, not only physically, but mentally.”
Kyrgios’s build-up to Melbourne has been disrupted by an ankle injury.
His chances of winning a maiden Slam are also hampered by being in a tough side of the draw, with Djokovic potentially waiting in the quarter-finals if both get that far.
But first the Australian would have to get past ninth seed Holger Rune and fifth seed Andrey Rublev.
“Relatively, feeling pretty good. I wouldn’t say fresh, but I’m just really excited to be here again,” he said. “I like to feel like I’ve got everything under control.
“(But) there’s so many capable people here. There’s always talk about me being a favourite, big expectations.
“I’m just trying to take it a day at a time. There’s so many people here that can cause damage.”
Kyrgios opens his campaign against Russia’s 98th-ranked Roman Safiullin.