Melbourne, Jan 21 (AFP) Nick Kyrgios Tuesday said Australia's bushfire disaster had given him perspective and focus, making him realise there were more important things than getting mad on a tennis court.
Long a polarising figure for his on-court antics, the enigmatic 24-year-old has won new fans for his efforts to mobilise support for victims of the deadly blazes, and he was welcomed at the Australian Open by huge roars.
He thrived in the Melbourne Arena atmosphere, grinding down Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/1) to book a second round berth.
"I was just really excited to get out here. Obviously a pretty emotional couple of months for all of us, so I just wanted to come out and put on a good performance," said the Australian, who has never gone beyond the last eight at a Major.
"This is my favourite court in the world. I feel super-comfortable. You guys are the best. I feel the support."
Kyrgios said ahead of the tournament he was finding it hard to concentrate on his home Grand Slam after the emotions sparked by the fires that have devastated huge tracts of Australia.
But he rose to the challenge and the 23rd seed did so in largely drama-free fashion, keeping himself calm for most of the match.
"I was definitely really nervous walking out there. But, I mean, the crowd was unbelievable. I got comfortable quite early in the match," he said.
"I'm just playing for a lot more than myself. I've said it before... there's not necessarily added pressure. I feel like I'm playing for a lot of people."
Kyrgios was a driving force in drumming up fundraising efforts for the bushfire recovery, including a 'Rally for Relief' exhibition match which collected more than Aus$5.0 million (US$3.4 million).
The controversial figure, who was handed a 16-week suspended ban in September after a series of outbursts, said the whole experience had given him pause for thought.
"I guess it's just a perspective thing, isn't it?" he said. "Why am I really getting mad on the tennis court with everything going on? "I felt like I was very focused today.
Every match I've played this year, I've been pretty good. It's probably because of everything going on."
- McEnroe praise -
Kyrgios and Sonego were locked at 2-2 in the first set before the Australian claimed a first break and then motored through his next service game, dropping one point on Sonego's next serve to open a 5-2 lead before sealing the set.
They were inseparable in the second set as the lights on Melbourne Arena briefly went out, with coachless Kyrgios heard saying: "You know how hard it is to block that out, it's impossible."
But with ATP Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt watching from his box, he came through a tense tie-breaker to go two sets ahead.
Displaying all his tricks, including some trademark "tweeners", Kyrgios closed out the match in another testing tiebreaker as the crowd went wild, with a second round clash looming against either France's Gilles Simon or Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas.
With Kyrgios not facing a single break point, television commentator John McEnroe lavished praise on his booming serve -- and also pledged Aus$1,000 to the bushfire fund for every set the Australian wins.
"He has actually got one of the best serves I've ever seen," said the tennis legend. "Top 10, ever. He has got pop. He can do anything with it." (AFP)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)