Nick Kyrgios opens up about mental health, foundation and injuries

Nick Kyrgios has found peace in meditation, but not the type of meditation you're thinking. Monday night social basketball has become his outlet from the tennis world, and he's loving the chance to escape in Canberra.

But the world No. 38 also revealed he has started working with psychologists to improve his mental health, admitting he "probably left it a little too long" to take an important step in his career.

Nick Kyrgios hopes building will soon start on an NK Foundation venue in Melbourne. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Nick Kyrgios hopes building will soon start on an NK Foundation venue in Melbourne. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

FINDING TENNIS ENJOYMENT

Kyrgios was king of the kids in the capital, giving away signed racquets, having hitting sessions against juniors and posing for photographs for anyone who stopped him at his home courts.

He says the Canberra tennis courts were his sanctuary when he was growing up, so it was the perfect place to start finding his enjoyment again after a tough year.

The 23-year-old said it gave him a chance to "feel normal", adding he is speaking with two psychologists - one overseas and one in Australia - to help him cope with the tour rigours.

"I was obviously struggling with a couple of things on and off the court this year, so it hasn't been easy. But I'm starting to see some psychologists and trying to get on top of my mental health," Kyrgios said.

Kyrgios has worked with psychologists in the past, but says he now feels more comfortable speaking about mental health and being open about the challenges he faces.

OMG: Nick Kyrgios reacts to Roger Federer's stunning passing shot during their third round clash at the US Open. Photo: AP

OMG: Nick Kyrgios reacts to Roger Federer's stunning passing shot during their third round clash at the US Open. Photo: AP

"I'm just trying to enjoy myself again and get ready for a big 2019," he said.

"There were times of the year where I wasn't in the best mental health state, so I've got to go out there and just be happy and enjoy myself and tennis. I think when everything lines up in my life, tennis will take care of itself.

"I probably left it a little too long. But I've been doing that and I feel more open about talking about it, I don't feel like I've got to hide that sort of stuff any more.

"At the end of the day I know I'm very lucky to be able to travel around and play tennis. I've been dealing with a couple of things that haven't been easy this year, but I'm sure it'll be OK next year."

THE RISE OF THE DEMON

Kyrgios says the rise of Alex de Minaur and a strong year from John Millman will give Australian tennis a massive boost, despite losing his spot as the country's No. 1 ranked male player.

Kyrgios was at the top of the Australia tree for more than two years, but injuries limited his playing opportunities this season, which was cut short by an elbow problem in Russia last month.

His time off the court has given him a chance to watch de Minaur jump to world No. 33 and admire Millman's fight to get to No. 35. They are part of a cluster of Australian players in the top 40, which also includes Kyrgios (38) and Matthew Ebden (39).

"It's unbelievable to see how many great players we have at the moment. I'm the complete opposite of the jealous type or anything like that, so when I see someone do well from Australia, I'm genuinely happy for them," Kyrgios said.

"The more players we have at the top, the greater our chances are in Davis Cup. Right now I think Aussie tennis is in the best position its been in for a long, long time."

Kyrgios hasn't set any ranking goals for next year. He started the 2018 season at No. 14 and was poised to push into the top 10, but injuries have held him back.

Nick Kyrgios started the year ranked No. 14 in the world, but injuries saw him slip to 38. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Nick Kyrgios started the year ranked No. 14 in the world, but injuries saw him slip to 38. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The season also included some on-court controversy with umpires at the US Open and in Shanghai, but the year wasn't all bad. He beat Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Grigor Dimitrov, as well as winning the Brisbane International in January.

"Obviously it wasn't one of the best years I've had, but when I played, and was healthy, I actually played pretty well. My win-loss record was pretty solid, but injuries are a part of the game," Kyrgios said.

ENDING THE INJURY WOES

Kyrgios is on only light training duties in Canberra before he starts his pre-season training for the Australian summer. He has struggled to get through the gruelling tour schedule in recent years, so he's looking for change.

That means overhauling his playing schedule and being picky with which tournaments he attends in a bid to avoid mental and physical burnout.

"I want to be able to find the right schedule for me, where I don't feel mentally burnt out or physically hurting," he said.

THE NK FOUNDATION

Kyrgios has started his NK Foundation, which has secured land in Melbourne to build a safe facility for underprivileged youths to play sport.

Nick Kyrgios got back to his tennis roots at Lyneham on Saturday. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Nick Kyrgios got back to his tennis roots at Lyneham on Saturday. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

He says the foundation has given him another motivation to perform well and he hopes some children view him as a role model.

"I want it to keep growing and to get bigger. For me, it's tough to find enjoyment in tennis sometimes with the grind, but it all gets stripped back with the kids," Kyrgios said.

"To hit some balls with them makes their day and hopefully gives them a dream to keep pushing, and maybe I can teach them a lot, because I've been through a lot, and they don't make the same mistakes."

He was also happy to see the continued growth in Canberra tennis, as well as being nominated as a Canberra sports awards male athlete of the year finalist.

"It's pretty surreal ... we had a centre court [at Lyneham] with weeds growing out of the ground when I was growing up, you had to know where to hit the ball to win the point. Every time I come here, I get good vibes."

This story Nick Kyrgios opens up about mental health, foundation and injuries first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.