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What makes Nick tick?

He was star-struck just being in the same room as Roger Federer, but Nick Kyrgios fancies his chances if he gets his day in court, write Lee Gaskin and Chris Wilson

On his way to winning a seventh Wimbledon crown and a record 17th grand slam title, Roger Federer could have been forgiven for thinking the 17-year-old kid from Canberra was only sharing the All England Club's locker room to clean up the towels.

But Nick Kyrgios was playing too, in the juniors, and on his way to a second successive doubles grand slam title.

''It's an unbelievable atmosphere in the locker room, everyone goes quiet when he's walking around in there,'' Kyrgios says of his chance encounter with Federer at Wimbledon last year.

''He's got an aura around him. It's pretty amazing … I was pretty star-struck.''

How does this story help explain what Nick Kyrgios is really like? The answer is in the follow-up question.

When Kyrgios is asked how he would feel staring at Federer across the other side of the net, the mood of the Daramalan College graduate changes.


''I'd obviously be nervous playing the greatest player of all-time, but I'd still be confident in my game,'' Kyrgios says.

''I'd be going into the match thinking I could win, you've got to believe you can to have any chance.''

This is the competitor Kyrgios' mentors tell you about.

Still a boy, starting his final year in the juniors ranked No.2 in the world, but emerging into a man confident enough to declare his ultimate goal is to beat the likes of Federer and become the world's best.

''He does not back down against his opponents, no matter who he's playing,'' says his former coach of seven years and former tour professional Todd Larkham.

''If he was to get in the Australian Open [this month] and go out and play Federer, he would be in his face and not daunted at all. It's a great quality to have.

''Sometimes he goes a little bit over the top with that, and he gets a little bit too pumped … but he goes out with the mindset he can beat anyone and that's why I think he's going to be a great player. He feels he can go to the top.''

Kyrgios turns 18 in April. This year will be his coming of age in the tennis world too, as he begins the transition to senior tournaments.

There's always an element of caution when talking up a future tennis star.

More so than any other sport, the step up from the junior ranks to the cut-throat world of the senior tour is a treacherous journey, one which has claimed its fair share of scalps along the way.

Kyrgios was awarded an AIS scholarship last year and coach Des Tyson says this year could be the making of him.

''He's been at the top of the junior rankings from the [under] 12s to the 18s, but now he's got to compete against 10,000 players from all over the world,'' Tyson said.

''It's always been difficult for Australian juniors to transition to the senior ranks, but he's done great up until now.''

Bernard Tomic was another Australian prodigy, ranked as high as No. 2 in the world in juniors. A big difference between them though is that Tomic won two grand slam titles in the junior ranks.

Tomic, now 20, has already been ranked as high as 27 on the professional tour and this week declared he could be top 10 by the end of the year, having beaten world No.1 Novak Djokovic at the Hopman Cup.

Kyrgios won back-to-back doubles titles at the French Open and Wimbledon last year, before losing the US Open final.

His goal this year is to become the world No.1 junior and to win a junior grand slam.

Larkham is confident Kyrgios has the game to succeed at senior level too.

''Statistically he's got a good chance of making it,'' Larkham says.

''If you look at the top juniors from Europe most of them have made it, but we've had too many Australian juniors probably over the last 20 years who haven't made it.

''It is a difficult period. In juniors he's used to winning, now he will lose a lot of matches but I think he'll adapt to that and make his way through.

''I'm very confident he's going to be top 100 and we'll see after that how good he can be.

''He's got a huge game, he's got a great first serve, he plays extremely aggressively.

''I compare him to [former World No.1 Andre] Agassi really, he takes the return of serve extremely early, and he plays in a very aggressive game style.

''He's completely different to Tomic who sits back and works the ball around the court and tries to draw errors. Nick's trying to hit winners when he plays.''

Plenty of people are now talking about Kyrgios' potential.

He's been orange boy and hitting partner for Australia's Davis Cup team. AIS head coach Brent Larkham suggests Kyrgios is capable of stepping up to play Davis Cup this year.

But it was Kyrgios' mother, Nill, who saw something special the very first time her ''chubby boy'' picked up a racquet.

''He hit it really hard, and I thought, 'woah, this kid can hit the ball','' Nill recalled.

''His hand-eye co-ordination for a chubby boy was pretty good, so he just kept wanting more balls.

''He couldn't move very fast, but he could certainly hit hard.''

Kyrgios, now a lean 195 centimetres, laughs at his mother's recollection.

''Aw, my mum's cooking is really good,'' Kyrgios says. ''People really notice I like my food.''

Like another former Australian tennis star, Mark Philippoussis, Kyrgios' father, George, is Greek. His mother is Malaysian.

His elder brother Christos, 25, has been a big influence, helping Kyrgios with his conditioning training.

As a junior, Kyrgios shrugging off comments about his weight with a simple philosophy - winning.

''The fact was I was probably still beating them, so it didn't really faze me that much,'' Kyrgios said.

''It was definitely an area I had to get better [in].

''I think I've done a really good job in the last couple of years and I'm starting to move really well around the court.''

Kyrgios is still hoping to make his grand slam debut at this month's Australian Open.

There is one more Australian wildcard to be issued, while Kyrgios also has a chance to earn his ticket via the final qualifying tournament, beginning on January 9.

Kyrgios appeared to be on track for an Australian Open berth when he beat No.1 seed Sam Groth in last month's qualifying tournament. He then led Matthew Barton 5-0 in the deciding set, before having to withdraw with cramp.

Kyrgios accepts that his temperament is another area he needs to work on.

Harnessed, Larkham says it can be a strength.

''He's a very fiery kid and fiery competitor,'' Larkham says.

''It's something that we want actually, we've lacked that in Australian tennis. Lleyton's got it, Tomic has got it, Nick's got it. Something that we need a bit more of at times from our players.''

Tyson says: ''He's settled down emotionally somewhat, maturing a bit and able to handle difficult situations on the court during matches.

''I also think physically he's starting to mature and is getting into better shape and moving around the court a lot better.''