Rafter warns rising star to expect cup call-up
Australian Open Boys singles champion Nick Kyrgios back in Canberra today and showing off his trophy. Photo: Colleen Petch
Canberra's teenage tennis star Nick Kyrgios had just collected his first junior grand slam title when Australia's Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter came calling with this message: ''We need you soon.''
Having dropped Bernard Tomic from the Davis Cup team for this week's qualifying tie in Taiwan, Rafter has already issued the challenge to the next generation of stars to step up - led by Kyrgios, the world No.1 junior, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, who was runner-up to Kyrgios in Melbourne.
''As soon as I was getting the trophy, [Rafter] was straight to me, he said to me and Thanasi, 'we need you guys for Davis Cup soon'. Little comments like that I guess, they're all sort of pushing us a lot,'' Kyrgios said. Rafter wasn't the only person telling the newly crowned boys' singles champion that Australian tennis is waiting for the next big thing, but 17-year-old Kyrgios is taking it all in his stride.
Nick Kyrgios is ready for Davis Cup action. Photo: Colleen Petch
''A lot of legends of tennis from Australia have been telling me we sort of need the next bunch of juniors to make it, I mean Rod Laver was telling me, Pat Cash, Pat Rafter,'' Kyrgios said.
''There's a little bit of pressure, but there's a lot of good juniors at the moment from Australia and some guys that are starting to make that transition [to seniors] like Luke Saville who made his [senior] Australian Open debut and Ben Mitchell.
''We're all pretty good friends, so I think as long as we all keep supporting each other and motivating each other at training, just working hard, I think we're going to share the pressure a bit.''
Kyrgios, who experienced the Davis Cup last year as an orange boy, doesn't know when a call-up might come, but said given Rafter's comments ''it could be close''.
''I think our [Davis Cup] team at the moment is still pretty strong … when the time comes Pat will know and hopefully me, Thanasi, Luke, we'll all be ready.''
Still three months off his 18th birthday, Kyrgios will spend this year moving into the senior ranks playing futures tournaments as well as the junior grand slams.
Last year he won the junior Wimbledon and French Open doubles titles, but after his Australian Open singles victory was televised live on free-to-air TV, his profile has shot up.
''The best bit was when me and Thanasi were walking through the hallway [to play the final] with a camera in front … even though you can't smile it was so hard, I was trying to look down and I looked up and I think I cracked a smile.
''Thanasi was in front and there was a TV as we were walking by [where] you could see yourself and Thanasi saw himself and started fixing his hair,'' he quipped.
Kyrgios, whose hair is still sporting a shaved-in lightning bolt, said not much had changed since his win.
He was recognised on the tram heading back to the hotel after the final, but the notoriety was short-lived, no one batted an eyelid when he went for a hit on the Watson tennis courts on Monday. But he said his Facebook and Twitter profiles were booming with hundreds of messages he's still trying to respond to.