Lleyton Hewitt has agreed to take Nick Kyrgios under his wing in a mentoring and coaching role before the US Open, his mother Nill hoping his guidance will help her son who “wasn’t in a good head space” after his Davis Cup meltdown.
Dogged by criticism over his on-court antics at Wimbledon, Kyrgios attracted more bad publicity after his shock loss to Aleksandr Nedovyesov on the opening day of Australia’s quarter-final tie against Kazakhstan last month.
The Canberran was heard uttering “I don’t want to be here” during the match and also broke a racquet in a rage, highlighting the stress the publicity had taken on him.
Kyrgios split with coach Todd Larkham just before Wimbledon and given he is yet to find a replacement, Hewitt has volunteered to help out as he approaches retirement.
The two-time grand slam champion will play doubles with Kyrgios when he returns to court at this week’s ATP Masters event in Montreal, and is also assisting Kyrgios’ close friend Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Hewitt copped his fair share of criticism for his brash approach early in his career and Tennis Australia and the Kyrgios camp felt his wisdom would be invaluable for the world No.41.
Nill said there was a strong chance Hewitt would remain in the role during the US Open, which begins on August 31.
She felt Nick would respond to Hewitt’s advice, given he had gone through the same ordeal himself.
“He will listen to Lleyton because he knows what he’s talking about, he’s been at the top and been world No.1,” Nill said.
“Definitely [Hewitt will be there] for Montreal and Cincinnati and depending on whether he plays the US Open or not, he’ll be there anyway. What Nick doesn’t like is when people who haven’t been in that situation give him advice, but he’ll listen to someone like Lleyton.
“Lleyton’s been through everything that Nick is going through. We touched base on it after Davis Cup because we knew Nick wasn’t in a good head space, he just wasn’t dealing well with the negative feedback.”
Nill said watching Hewitt’s tenacity and competitiveness up close would also be beneficial.
“It played havoc with his emotions and I think Lleyton knew that,” she said.
“For the moment it [partnership] is temporary, only because I don’t think Nick has asked anyone. Nick and Thanasi know he’s over there to mentor and coach if they want it, he’s there to make sure they’re heading in the right direction.
“They also need to be in a good head space for the semi-finals of the Davis Cup. They cannot go to the semi-final the way they did in the quarter-final. He’s not there to say ‘don’t do this or don’t do that’, he’s there to advise them gently on things they shouldn’t be doing, because they’ll regret it later.
“Lleyton was available and fortunately in a position where he’s just about to finish [his career]. He wanted to mentor these boys because he’s been in their shoes before. I think it’s great for Nick to have him there.”
Losses to Kyrgios and Kokkinakis put Australia in a 2-0 hole against Kazakhstan, before Sam Groth and Hewitt rescued things by winning the reverse singles ties and setting up a semi-final showdown with Great Britain.
“People perceive Nick got dropped, but there was no way the way he was [mentally] he could have won that singles match, he just couldn’t do it,” Nill said.
“It’s a team, you have to report back to your team members and say ‘I don’t think I can do it’. He’d just had enough at that point.”
Kyrgios starts his Montreal campaign against Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco early Wednesday morning (AEST).
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