AAP Tennis

Zen-like Kyrgios’ focus on Simon not Nadal

By AAP Newswire

Nick Kyrgios has lifted the lid on his new-found focus as tennis's most unlikely Zen master braces for a true test of character at the Australian Open on Thursday.

Suddenly driven by higher forces, Kyrgios faces Gilles Simon for a place in the third round refusing to look beyond the veteran Frenchman and former Open quarter-finalist.

Australia's 23rd seed could strike world No.1 Rafael Nadal in the last 16 in what looms as one of the spiciest matches of the tournament following their back-and-forth sniping at each other last year.

But Kyrgios only has eyes for Simon, now 35 and ranked 61st in the world but a dogged opponent and long-time former top-tenner.

"That's going to be a battle. I'm not thinking ahead at the moment," he said after easing to a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-1) first-round win over Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Even a blackout on court didn't seem to perturb the usually combustible star who said playing for bushfire victims and being a tennis crusader for Australia's relief program had helped change his attitude on the court.

"I guess it's just a perspective thing, isn't it? Why am I really getting mad on the tennis court with everything going on?," Kyrgios said.

"Every match I've played this year, I've been pretty good. It's probably because of everything going on."

Kyrgios has pledged $200 for every ace he hits this summer and now even one-time critic John McEnroe - who once condemned the Australian's "bonehead behaviour" as being like a "Vaudeville entertainer" - is on board.

Inspired by Kyrgios, McEnroe has announced he will donate $1,000 to the bushfire relief for every set Australia's top men's hope wins during the Open.

"It was awesome. Obviously I felt like he wanted to help. I mean, I'm sure a lot of people appreciate that," Kyrgios said.

"I want to continue to do what I can. I'm not even thinking about my next round. I'm going to do all the things right, recover, go again.

"Hopefully I can keep serving well. Hopefully I can win more sets."

Kyrgios is also feeling the love from Australian fans and the good vibe continued when he said he'd love to go to the Tokyo Olympics and represent Australia in July.

It comes after Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said he would like to have the 24-year-old there - four years after a bitter AOC fall out with Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic resulted in the pair not going to the Rio Games.

"I wanted to play just as much the last time the Olympics were around," Kyrgios said.

"I feel like if I'm there, I've got a genuine shot at winning a medal, one.

"I'd love to be there with the other athletes representing Australia, two."

Kyrgios edged Simon in two tight sets in their only previous encounter, last August in Washington.

A repeat would pit the world No.26 into a third-round tussle on Saturday with Russian 16th seed Karen Khachanov or Swede Mikael Ymer.