Melbourne - The pre-Australian Open
spotlight will be fixed firmly on volatile Nick Kyrgios with the exuberant
young Aussie heading the field at the Kooyong Classic starting on Tuesday.
Days after leading Australia to only its
second title at the Hopman Cup mixed-teams event in Perth, the 20-year-old has
become a hot topic in the Grand Slam run-up due to his heroics on court - and
his new-look good behaviour.
Kyrgios, who had frequent brushes with
officialdom last season, is the top draw card in an expanded 12-man field at
Kooyong Club in Melbourne, former home of the Australian Open and venue for an
upcoming first-round Davis Cup tie again the United States in March.
The richly-talented youngster is coming off
a contentious 2015, including an infamous on-court spat with Stan Wawrinka
which sparked stinging criticism from fellow players.
It led to the ATP handing him a 28-day
suspended sentence that remains in effect until late February. It will be
imposed if he gets in trouble on court again, something he managed to avoid in
The powerful Kyrgios, who won all four of
his singles rubbers at the Hopman Cup and helped team-mate Daria Gavrilova to
the first Aussie victory in the event for 16 years, will take to the court on
Wednesday when he faces Belgian David Goffin.
"My game can always get better.
There's always things I need to improve on. You can never be too ready, I feel,
for a Grand Slam," world number 30 Kyrgios said as he prepared for the
business end of the Australian tennis summer.
"I'm nervous, I'm excited. I don't
really know how much or how little to do. I'm just going to get out there and
practise a bit more.
"I feel like I play my best tennis on
big stages. If I'm serving well and playing the right game style, I think I've
got a good chance."
Tuesday's opening programme will feature
half of the field on court with the remainder to play Wednesday. As in the
past, winners progress while losers complete relegation play.
On Tuesday, Frenchman Gilles Simon brings a
2-2 record into an opening match with Spain's Feliciano Lopez as the pair meet
for the first time since 2014.
Australian Open wildcard Omar Jasika faces
South Korea's Hyeon Chung and Nicolas Almagro and Paul Henri Mathieu hold
another Spain-French clash.
The Wednesday line-up includes former
Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis taking on Spanish youngster Pablo
Carenno Busta, while German teen Alex Zverev plays Britain's Kyle Edmund in
addition to the showcase Kyrgios match.
The event is also used by major players for
one-off warm-ups under match conditions with Kei Nishikori to take advantage of
an invitation do that by testing himself against Jasika, a former US open