As one of the most naturally gifted players on Tour, Nick Kyrgios is used to handling great expectations.

For the highest-ranked Australian in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, nowhere is that ability to cope with pressure more in demand than at the Australian Open. His impressive 2022 season may even have taken home expectations up another notch for the 27-year-old this year, but Kyrgios is relishing the moment as he prepares for his 10th main draw appearance in Melbourne.

“I think everyone wants to get to a position in their sport or their profession, [to] be one of the best and have that expectation and pressure,” said Kyrgios on Saturday, the day after entertaining a packed house on Rod Laver Arena in a charity match against Novak Djokovic. “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.”

That was one FUN chapter in the @DjokerNole and @NickKyrgios AO story ✌️

Thanks for a great night! #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/TxzfI2cAA0

— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 13, 2023

Kyrgios has enjoyed some stirring runs at his home major since making his main draw debut in 2014. He reached the quarter-finals in 2015 and the fourth round in 2018 and 2020, and lifted the 2022 men’s doubles title alongside close friend Thanasi Kokkinakis. Yet he admitted that there are pros and cons to the extra attention that comes with playing at home.

“I walked in here at the Australian Open maybe eight, nine years ago as a wild card,” said Kyrgios, whose 2022 Australian Open campaign is the subject of Episode 1 of Netflix’s new documentary series Break Point. “Now to see how my career has unfolded, to get to a point where everyone kind of expects me to win and go far, 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.”

Despite those extra challenges, Kyrgios arrives at Melbourne Park for the first time this year knowing what it takes to reach a Grand Slam final. He advanced to his maiden major championship match at Wimbledon last July, an experience the 27-year-old believes can help him mentally and physically prepare for what is to come in Melbourne.

“It was just a special moment,” said Kyrgios of his Wimbledon run. “Just more relief more than anything. Obviously hearing the outside noise every day, every tournament. ‘He’s not able to put it into a Grand Slam, he’s not able to do this, he’s not able to do that.’

“I always knew belief-wise that my level was there, but to be able to do it consistently was always the issue. 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.

“These guys that have won multiple Grand Slams, they’re just animals, not only physically, but mentally.”

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When Kyrgios steps onto court to face World No. 98 Roman Safiullin on Tuesday, it will be the Australian’s first tour-level singles match since he reached the quarter-finals in Tokyo in October. Just over two weeks ago, injury forced him to withdraw from Team Australia’s lineup for the inaugural United Cup, but the showstopping Australian is not concerned by his relative lack of recent matches.

“I have always been a player that doesn’t need too many matches,” said Kyrgios. “I played 12 to 13 events last year. Felt like that was a lot of tennis. I’m always going to have to keep that in mind.

“Obviously, there are players that need a lot of matches going into a Grand Slam. But me, I just like to feel fresh, I like to feel like I’ve got everything under control. There are 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 are so many people here that can cause damage.

“I’m just doing everything right at the moment.”

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