Nick Kyrgios says he has “made progress as a human” after his Australian Open ended with an honourable defeat by Spanish top seed Rafael Nadal.
Kyrgios, 24, lost 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) as Nadal reached the Melbourne quarter-finals on Monday.
The Australian has received wide praise for his improved on-court behaviour at the start of the 2020 season.
“I’m just taking it day by day, trying to bring positive vibes,” said Kyrgios after the match.
In September, he was put on a six-month probationary period after being given a suspended 16-week ban and $25,000 (£20,300) fine for “aggravated behaviour” on court.
An ATP investigation determined Kyrgios’ “pattern of behaviour” over the previous 12 months – which included smashing racquets, swearing and a furious tirade at umpire Fergus Murphy, who he labelled a “potato” – was in violation of the governing body’s code.
Nadal, a 19-time Grand Slam champion, also criticised his behaviour, saying it lacked “respect”.
But Kyrgios has responded favourably – on and off court – over an Australian summer which has seen his country devastated by bushfires.
The Canberra-born player teared up at the recent ATP Cup when he discussed the disaster.
That came after he pledged to donate 200 Australian dollars for every serve he hit this month, a gesture which sparked a huge fundraising effort among his fellow pros.
The total raised by the sport stood at over A$5.6m (£2.9m) on Sunday night.
“I feel like I’ve made progress as a human. A tennis player, I don’t really care about as much,” said Kyrgios, who could climb back into the world’s top 20 next week.
Nadal had warm words for Kyrgios after their match at Melbourne Park, encouraging his younger rival to keep playing with the same “very positive attitude”.
The world number one added Kyrgios has the talent to be “one of the best in the world”.
In response to Nadal’s advice, Kyrgios said: “I appreciate it. But I already know that. I’ve known that for the last four years.
“But the trouble for me is being able to actually just produce the same attitude over and over again. Hopefully I can keep doing it.”
‘Special’ Bryant motivated my fightback – Kyrgios
Kyrgios says the emotion he felt at the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant motivated his fightback against Nadal in their thrilling last-16 match on Rod Laver Arena.
Kyrgios, a huge basketball fan, was flat in the first set but fought back to level before 33-year-old Nadal recovered.
“My life is basketball and when I think about it, it is heavy. It is tough,” he said.
Kyrgios paid tribute to Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, by wearing an LA Lakers vest bearing the American’s name on the back as he walked out on court.
The 24-year-old, who looked close to tears, kept the jersey on during the warm-up.
Bryant was a keen tennis fan and performed the coin toss before Roger Federer’s US Open match against Britain’s Dan Evans last year.
“When I woke up to the news, it was pretty emotional,” said Kyrgios.
“I don’t think they make them like him any more. He was different, the way he trained, the way he did things, the way he played. He was special.
“If you look at the things he stood for, what he wanted to be remembered by, I felt like, if anything, it helped me [against Nadal].
“When I was down a break in the fourth, I was definitely thinking about it. I fought back.”