Despite almost 16,000 km between the U.S. capital and his home base in Australia’s capital, Canberra, Nick Kyrgios finds a comforting sense of home at the site of his most memorable title run. While the 26-year-old proves a drawcard at any stop on tour, outside his home country, he holds a particular affinity for Washington, D.C. and much of it boils down to one factor: the fans.

“Yeah, well, definitely feels like home. The first time I came on site today, everyone was kind of embracing me. Felt like I was playing almost in Australia. I feel completely comfortable here,” Kyrgios said ahead of his opening match against Mackenzie McDonald.

“Yeah, I just love the fans. I’m extremely happy to see the Citi Open. I’m pretty sure it’s full capacity… You can feel the energy around the courts.”

Two years ago, when the tournament was last played, Kyrgios channelled that crowd energy to stage a remarkable run at the Citi Open. He saved a match point to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals before he denied Daniil Medvedev for the title.

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This will be only Kyrgios’ fifth event of 2021. While much has changed in the world since that 2019 triumph, the chance to interact with fans and whip up a crowd remains a motivating factor.

“I feel as if I’m not playing for myself anymore. I feel like I’m kind of playing for a lot of people who can relate to me,” Kyrgios said. “I feel like when I was young, I didn’t really have goals to win Slams or anything like that…

“Obviously became kind of good, I guess. Then I beat all the top players, won some titles. Feel like I’ve been pretty iconic in the sport in the sense of doing it my own way, bridging the gap between I think basketball and tennis there now. I’ve accomplished a lot.

“I enjoy now playing just for fun. I really do enjoy just being around fans, just talking with them, getting to know what they do. It was just, like, some touching moments that I remember, my favourite parts of my career, just being with fans, giving them some hope.”

In an added bonus for fans, the Australian teams up with good friend and Washington, D.C. local, Frances Tiafoe, in doubles this week. They face a tricky opener against third seeds Ivan Dodig – a recent Olympic doubles silver medallist – and Rohan Bopanna, a showdown from which Kyrgios admits he has little to lose.

“I don’t know how we’re going to concentrate out there. That’s one thing. I could be an absolute disaster or it could be a lot of fun,” he said. “Me and Frances, when we’re together, we don’t stop laughing and we don’t have any sort of tennis talk really. We’ll see how it’s going to go. I think that one’s obviously just for the crowd.”

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