Australian Open: Kyrgios embracing 'role model' tag after overshadowing Nadal

By Sports Desk January 25, 2022

Nick Kyrgios is hoping to inspire the next generation of tennis stars after taking centre stage at the Australian Open with his run to the men's doubles semi-finals.

The 26-year-old fan favourite and partner Thanasi Kokkinakis downed sixth seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus 7-5 3-6 6-3 in Tuesday's quarter-final clash.

The contest was watched by a lively crowd on Kia Arena and overshadowed Rafael Nadal's five-set win over Denis Shapovalov on Rod Laver Arena at the same time.

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, who were given a wildcard into the draw after being knocked out of the singles early on, will now face Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.

"I'm not finished – I want to win this f****** thing," Kyrgios declared in his on-court interview. "We know what we do well and it's world-class. 

"That's what we'll do again. I just want to play and give the people of Australia a show and genuinely grow the sport of tennis."

Kyrgios showed his caring side early in the match when handing a racket to a fan in the crowd after accidentally hitting the youngster with one of Kokkinakis' faulted balls.

The Australian public have embraced the pair's deep run in the competition and Kyrgios, often a controversial character, is glad to see so many younger spectators watching on.

"There is no way around it; me and Thanasi are definitely role models to the youth in Australia. We obviously attract that crowd," he said at his post-match news conference.

"I know that over the years I haven't been the best role model, but I was just learning how to deal with everything. 

"I think now at 26 I have matured, and I've definitely realised that a lot of young kids and people, even people that are low on confidence, they do look towards us.

"We are not special people. We're normal humans that you might see walking in Australia, and we are now in the semi-finals of a grand slam.

"I feel like I think we are just relatable. I think that's what's the best thing about it. They go out and get behind their mates. Most of the guys in the crowd are our mates.

"You've got Roger Federer and these guys that are just once-a-generation athletes. I can't be like that. We're not like that. I feel it has to be people that are a bit more relatable."

The Aussie pair's next opponents Granollers and Zeballos have won six tour-level titles as a team, but have never gone all the way at a grand slam.

Kokkinakis is hoping to have similar backing from the expectant home fans on Thursday.

Asked about the support he and his doubles partner have received so far, Kokkinakis said: "The rowdier the better. Sink p*** and come here.

"The next guys are experienced veterans, but we're going to keep playing how we play, have fun and enjoy the crowd."

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