ATP Tour

Kyrgios in the spotlight at Kooyong

Nick Kyrgios (AFP)
Nick Kyrgios (AFP)

Melbourne - The pre-Australian Open spotlight will be fixed firmly on volatile Nick Kyrgios with the exuberant young Aussie heading the field at the Kooyong Classic starting on Tuesday.

Days after leading Australia to only its second title at the Hopman Cup mixed-teams event in Perth, the 20-year-old has become a hot topic in the Grand Slam run-up due to his heroics on court - and his new-look good behaviour.

Kyrgios, who had frequent brushes with officialdom last season, is the top draw card in an expanded 12-man field at Kooyong Club in Melbourne, former home of the Australian Open and venue for an upcoming first-round Davis Cup tie again the United States in March.

The richly-talented youngster is coming off a contentious 2015, including an infamous on-court spat with Stan Wawrinka which sparked stinging criticism from fellow players.

It led to the ATP handing him a 28-day suspended sentence that remains in effect until late February. It will be imposed if he gets in trouble on court again, something he managed to avoid in Perth.

The powerful Kyrgios, who won all four of his singles rubbers at the Hopman Cup and helped team-mate Daria Gavrilova to the first Aussie victory in the event for 16 years, will take to the court on Wednesday when he faces Belgian David Goffin.

"My game can always get better. There's always things I need to improve on. You can never be too ready, I feel, for a Grand Slam," world number 30 Kyrgios said as he prepared for the business end of the Australian tennis summer.

"I'm nervous, I'm excited. I don't really know how much or how little to do. I'm just going to get out there and practise a bit more.

"I feel like I play my best tennis on big stages. If I'm serving well and playing the right game style, I think I've got a good chance."

Tuesday's opening programme will feature half of the field on court with the remainder to play Wednesday. As in the past, winners progress while losers complete relegation play.

On Tuesday, Frenchman Gilles Simon brings a 2-2 record into an opening match with Spain's Feliciano Lopez as the pair meet for the first time since 2014.

Australian Open wildcard Omar Jasika faces South Korea's Hyeon Chung and Nicolas Almagro and Paul Henri Mathieu hold another Spain-French clash.

The Wednesday line-up includes former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis taking on Spanish youngster Pablo Carenno Busta, while German teen Alex Zverev plays Britain's Kyle Edmund in addition to the showcase Kyrgios match.

The event is also used by major players for one-off warm-ups under match conditions with Kei Nishikori to take advantage of an invitation do that by testing himself against Jasika, a former US open junior winner.

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