OPINION: Don’t choke on your toast or splutter in your coffee, but Nick Kyrgios is the man to take tennis into the future.
The 17th seed takes on the world No.3, Grigor Dimitrov, this evening and the match could be telling for both players' careers.
If Dimitrov wins it gives him some mental kudos. But a loss shows he’s still fragile when it comes to pressure situations and big events. Sure, he won the year-end championships, but Rafael Nadal was absent with injury and Roger Federer wasn’t really playing to his peak.
Although the Bulgarian leads their head-to-heads 2-1, Kyrgios is the player with the most talent, and it was the Australian who won their most recent encounter in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago in a tournament he'd go on to win.
The big plus about the brash Aussie is that he has legion upon legions of fans. Federer is well loved by those 25 and older, but Kyrgios is becoming the bigger attraction. He has a huge number of teenage supporters, and a vocal contingent of female fans who go completely gaga over him.
Kyrgios is young, hip, anti-establishment and exactly what the ATP wants when it comes to new fans and engagement for the future. He has the look of an NBA basketballer, the attitude of rebellion, yet he’s still a wholesome Mummy's boy who really loves spending time with his family. His girlfriend is Aussie-Croat tennis player Ajla Tomlijanovic who appears to have a settling influence on him, as does compatriot and mentor Lleyton Hewitt.
He can play just about any shot in the coaching manual and a few that aren’t. He has no fear to give any shot a go, while others would be more hesitant.
He’s matured already in this Australian Open and appears to be trying hard to shake the 'bad boy' image the media loves to propagate in their search for a villain to spice up the tennis world.
On the other hand, Dimitrov has had a high profile relationship with Maria Sharapova and now is in a long-term relationship with Nicole Scherzinger, who is tabloid fodder on both sides of the Atlantic.
There’s plenty to like and dislike about both players, but one draws the crowds, attracts the sponsors and represents the sport's next generation.
Dave Worsley is a Newshub sports reporter who's in Melbourne for the Australian Open.