John McEnroe says embattled Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios couldn’t have a better man in his corner than Lleyton Hewitt.
After hosting Kyrgios at his Bahamas base last week as the 20-year-old was crucified by the tennis world and sanctioned by the ATP for his sledging of Stan Wawrinka, Hewitt took up a front-row seat in his Davis Cup teammate’s courtside box for his US Open clash with Andy Murray on Tuesday night.
ESPN listed Hewitt as the coachless Kyrgios’ “advisor” and, commentating for the network, McEnroe said it was a masterstroke to turn to “one of the greatest competitors in the history of tennis”.
“It’s a good move from Kyrgios. It could be just what the doctor ordered,” said tennis’ original superbrat.
A big fan of Kyrgios, McEnroe said he was as much concerned about the two-time grand slam quarter-finalist’s loose game management as his conduct.
“Obviously that next guy he gets to coach him is going to be extremely important to him; to get the right guy, the right people around him,” McEnroe said.
Hewitt, who endured his own troubles after polarising fans early in his career, said he sympathised with Kyrgios.
“I do feel for him. He’s a good kid,” Hewitt said after advancing to the second round at Flushing Meadows for the 13th time on Tuesday.
“As a bloke, he’s pretty reserved for how you see him on the court.
“He trusts me at least, which is a big step forward. Obviously I’ve been able to earn that trust being in Davis Cup teams and showing that I do care about his career.”
Kyrgios credited Hewitt for helping him get in the right head space for the US Open despite the flak flying around him.
“He’s a mentor for me,” Kyrgios said after his four-set loss to Murray at Flushing Meadows.
“He’s been helping myself, Thanasi (Kokkinakis) out as well. He’s taken time out. I’m really thankful for that. He’s really helped me a lot the last couple weeks.
“He’s been a massive part of getting my head stable, and being able to have the performance tonight, I think that’s massive. Yeah, that’s all Lleyton.
“It’s easy to listen to him obviously. He’s been there. He’s won grand slams. He’s won here. But he’s been through it all.
“I think we’ve got a really good relationship now, which is going to be unbelievable for Davis Cup. I have really good trust in him.”
Six-times major winner and former world No.1 Boris Becker, now coaching the top-ranked Novak Djokovic, was another interested observer at Kyrgios’ match.
The German dubbed Kyrgios “a character”, but said he needed to tone down his on-court antics and start making headlines for his tennis instead of his trash talking.
“I’ve learned that he’s extremely talented, that he could be a much better player if he stopped his talk,” Becker said.