Andy Murray is expecting Australian bad-boy Nick Kyrgios to relish the hype surrounding their first-round clash at the US Open.
Murray’s match against the controversial 20-year-old is the stand-out tie of the round and is likely to be given prime slot in Arthur Ashe Stadium tomorrow night.
Kyrgios has become blockbuster viewing after a string of misdemeanours this year, the most recent of which saw him pick up a suspended 28-day ban and a $25,000 fine.
His offence, making vulgar comments towards Stan Wawrinka about his girlfriend Donnna Vekic, has drawn scathing criticism throughout the tennis world, with Vekic describing the lack of serious punishment as “ridiculous”.
Kyrgios will have to be on his best behaviour in Flushing Meadows for the sanctions not to be activated, but Murray rejected the suggestion his opponent could struggle with the usual bravado removed.
“I don’t know to be honest, I think he likes playing on big stages and I think that’s where he’s played his best tennis throughout his career,” Murray said.
“I think last year he’d only won one or two matches outside of the grand slams through the whole year.
“Then this year his results have been inconsistent but he made quarters in Australia, I played him in the third round at the French, and then at Wimbledon he was close to the quarters again.
“I would expect him to be ready for the match. He gets himself fired up for the big events.”
Murray has enjoyed a positive relationship with Kyrgios, having regularly partnered the youngster and his compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis in practice sessions around major tournaments.
The pair have both spoken highly of Murray’s influence on their fledgling tennis careers and the Scot in turn has called for patience with Kyrgios’s habit for attracting controversy.
“A little bit of patience is important when it comes to Nick,” Murray said.
“Everyone here recording, when they were 19 or 20, would have made some mistakes.
“It’s unfortunate for him that when it happens it’s in front of millions of people.
“I think what he did was wrong – but I also think he’s still a young guy. People mature at different rates. Everyone is different.
“He will learn and I don’t think he’s a bad guy, I don’t think he’s a bad person at all.
“He’s a talented guy with a lot of potential and he’s going to be around the top of the game for a while.”
Kyrgios is yet to cause Murray any problems on the court.
In two meetings with the British No.1 this year – in the Australian Open quarter-finals and the French Open third round – he has lost twice and is yet to win a set.
Murray’s sturdy defence and brilliant counter-punch often seem perfectly designed for beating powerhouse opponents like Kyrgios, and the Briton is likely to deploy similar tactics in New York.
“I played well, I played smart tennis,” Murray said.
“I tried to come up with a game plan that made it tough for him. If you watch the matches I tried to mix my game up.
“That’s my game style. That’s something I’ve worked on in the last 18 months or so.
“It’s worked well for me for sure and it’s something I’ll try to do again here.”