Nick Kyrgios finds his purpose, Carla Suarez Navarro is hero of the day - Diary

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Following his close 7-6 (3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4) defeat to Grigor Dimitrov in the Australian Open fourth round on Sunday, Nick Kyrgios was told that American legend John McEnroe said that was the most he’d ever seen him fight in a match.

“I mean, can’t argue with that,” Kyrgios said with a smile.

The 22-year-old Kyrgios is used to hearing criticism from McEnroe, who has never been easy on him when he’s commentating any of his matches. But it seems Kyrgios has managed to sway the opinion of one of his harshest sceptics and of course, the young Aussie is happy to take the compliment.

Although he lost on Sunday, Kyrgios can walk away from Melbourne proud of his Australian summer. He started 2018 by winning seven matches in a row, four on his way to the Brisbane title, and three at Melbourne Park this fortnight.

He went down fighting against Dimitrov and generally exhibited a much improved attitude throughout the month Down Under. He maintained his focus during the matches, and the most telling part was how he dealt with his frustrations.

In his thriller with Dimitrov, he netted a simple overhead smash to get broken and give the Bulgarian the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set. Instead of losing the plot, he broke back and took the set to a tiebreak.

From a physical standpoint, Kyrgios also appears to be taking care of his body better than in the past. Despite a knee problem that bothered him since Brisbane, he managed to be competitive through all his matches and said he was prepared to play a fifth set against Dimitrov if he had succeeded in taking that fourth-set tiebreak.

“I feel confident. You know, I still feel confident after losing that match,” said Kyrgios on Sunday. “I feel like I have more of a vision and goal for this year. I think I’m in a good head space.”

He finally looks and sounds like a talented individual with a purpose.

He’s still not keen on hiring a coach though.

“I don’t think so,” he said when asked if he was thinking of bringing someone on board. “You know, I feel like I have lost one match this year, so I’m doing alright.”

For Kyrgios, it’s more about progress rather than an all-out transformation. He’s still doing things his way. You wonder that if he doesn’t, he wouldn’t be able to dazzle on the court the way he does.

Before his fourth round on Sunday, Kyrgios was reportedly hitting some balls with a cancer patient – something he apparently has been doing all week in Melbourne. That’s hardly how other players would choose to prepare for a huge match but again, he likes doing things his way, and he’s finding motivation and peace in reaching out to others.

“I just do my thing. I play the game and I play the game the way I want it to be played. I don’t follow, I don’t really idolise anything or follow anyone. I just do my own thing,” is how Kyrgios signed off from Melbourne on Sunday.

Next up for him his Davis Cup, where he feels at home with his Aussie crew. The real test will come after that. Finding the fire to keep going all season. Something tells me it won’t be a problem for him this year.

HERO OF THE DAY

Carla Suarez Navarro looked like she was ready to pack her bags and leave Melbourne when she trailed an on-fire Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 1-4 in the fourth round on Sunday. But the Spaniard pegged her opponent back and ended up winning 8-6 in the third set to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals for a third time.

STATS OF THE DAY

1 – Elina Svitolina is the first Ukrainian woman to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

6 – Following his victory over Kyrgios, Dimitrov is now 6-2 win-loss against players at their home Grand Slams.

8 – Grand Slam quarter-finals Marin Cilic has reached in his last 16 Grand Slams.

10 – Australian Open quarter-finals reached by Rafael Nadal, which puts him joint-second with Stefan Edberg on the Open Era list of most last-eight appearances in Melbourne.

QUOTES OF THE DAY

“He’s extremely, extremely talented, if not the most talented player out there… I love competing against him. I know it’s frustrating at times, very frustrating, but in the same time, you know, it’s for the love of the game, and I love the game.”

— Dimitrov on Kyrgios.

“I just told him to believe in himself. Sometimes I think he lacks a bit of belief. But I think he’s got the game and he’s proved to everyone that he can win one of these Slams. So I just told him to believe himself and hopefully he can go all the way.”

— Kyrgios on what he told Dimitrov at the net.

“I think he’s really aggressive every time. He can play four hours aggressive. He can play four hours really, really intensive. Is not easy for me. For example, in the court four hours, trying to run every point, trying to do winners every point, is not easy to be focused four hours against him. He can do easy. And I think that is the best thing from him.”

— Diego Schwartzman on the challenge of taking on Nadal.

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