Masur backs teens to return Australia to golden age
Nick Kyrgios plays a backhand in his quarterfinal match. Photo: Cameron Spencer
Exciting teenagers Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis can help spearhead an Australian tennis revival, according to former player Wally Masur.
Masur has been so impressed by the pair's development, he insists they are capable of playing Davis Cup within a few years.
The pair added to their burgeoning reputations by winning their respective junior quarter-final matches at the Australian Open on Thursday.
Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia. Photo: Cameron Spencer
The close friends are now only one step away from clashing in the junior final at Melbourne Park after No.3 seed Kyrgios, 17, of Canberra, dispatched South African Wayne Montgomery 6-1, 6-1.
Kokkinakis, 16, had to work much harder before beating No. 2 seed Gianluigi Quinzi, of Italy, for the first time in three attempts 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 8-6.
''Nick's a bit of a character, he interacts with the crowd and has got an interesting personality. You get the feeling he'd be a pretty good big-match player if he got the opportunity,'' Masur told The Canberra Times on Thursday.
''I was speaking to Pat Rafter, and Pat was saying he thinks those two have a really strong chance to push through and be really strong players.
''If his results are warranted, Nick will get that chance. Lleyton [Hewitt] played Davis Cup at a very young age, and Australia's never been afraid to blood a young player.
''I'd like to think by his early 20s, if he's really established himself on tour as a player who could win matches for Australia, that'd be the logical progression.''
An Australian Open commentator with Fox Sports, Masur says the emergence of Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, combined with the promising recent results of James Duckworth and Ben Mitchell, has Australian tennis in the best shape it's been for some time.
''I hope in the next couple of years they continue to improve because obviously [Bernard] Tomic's a very good young player, Mitchell and Duckworth look like they're tracking pretty well,'' Masur said.
''If we can get those two guys to push through it gets really interesting. It's definitely the best little nucleus of players I've seen [for a while].
''It's a luxury we haven't had in Australian tennis for some time.''
Kyrgios' huge serve and powerful baseline game has attracted comparisons with Mark Philippoussis.
''The similarities are there, they're both big hitters,'' Masur said.
''They have got nice all-court games which will be relevant on all surfaces.
''They're big, strong kids and that's so important in the modern game.''
Kyrgios smashed the seventh-seeded Montgomery for the second time in as many weeks after beating him in the final of the Traralgon Junior International.
''I knew I was going to have to play a lot of balls today because he doesn't really miss,'' Kyrgios said.
''It was a very sound performance and I take a lot of confidence out of it.''