Melbourne: Australian showman Nick Kyrgios admitted Saturday he didn’t miss tennis, nor the people in it, during his year-long coronavirus layoff, but now feels mentally refreshed and excited to be back.
The 25-year-old last played in February at the Acapulco Open before a wrist injury and then the global pandemic brought his season to a halt.
He opted not to travel for the US or French Opens and emerged as a moral voice for the game, blasting fellow stars — notably Novak Djokovic — over their behaviour during the virus crisis.
“I don’t miss too many people on the tour, to be honest. Apart from all the Australian guys,” he said at Melbourne Park ahead of his comeback match in the ATP Murray River Open next week before the Australian Open on February 8.
“I’m not going to lie, I didn’t miss the game that much. I’m a competitor, I compete with everything I do. But I was playing computer games, all that kind of stuff, getting my little competitive edge there. I didn’t really miss the game at all.”
Kyrgios said the time off allowed him to instead focus on “things that actually matter”.
“In my time off I wasn’t thinking about tennis at all. I was going through a couple of off-court things,” he said. “My mum was not so healthy. I was focusing on things that actually matter to me personally. Tennis to me is not my top priority.”
Long a polarising figure for his on-court antics, Kyrgios appeared to turn a corner at the Australian Open last year, winning new fans for his efforts to mobilise support for victims of deadly bushfires that devastated huge tracts of the country.
He said the disaster gave him perspective and focus, making him realise there were more important things than getting angry on a tennis court.
And the chance to again perform at his home Grand Slam this year forced him back into training, hitting two hours a day for the past few months.
“It was a bit of a task to get out there, get in the routine of things. Wake up and say, ‘Look, we got the Australian Open around the corner, let’s put some work in’. It wasn’t so easy,” he said. But after the initial shock, Kyrgios is now “mentally completely refreshed”.
“I feel like I am playing well and am ready to go. Everyone is really playing it by ear. Nobody really knows who is in form and who is not,” he said. “I’m going to take it day by day and try to enjoy myself as much as I can. I’m extremely blessed to be here again,” he added. “I’m not sure how many of these I played now. I definitely feel like I’m a veteran of the tour now.”