<
>

How shooting hoops is helping ground Nick Kyrgios

play
Kyrgios has hot hand in basketball shootout (0:48)

Tennis star Nick Kyrgios put his basketball skills to the test before the Australian Open. (0:48)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Shooting hoops in front of a large crowd may not be textbook preparation for a grand slam but it would take a brave person to try and drag Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios away from a basketball ring.

With the Australian Open just three days away, Kyrgios was at Melbourne Central shopping mall showing fans that his sporting prowess extends further than just the tennis court. The 23-year-old, who claimed he was "feeling good", sunk shot after shot on the makeshift court and left fans wondering whether or not he made the correct career move by pursuing tennis.

"I was 14 and my parents came to me and gave me the talk that I had to choose between tennis and basketball," Kyrgios said. "It was a tough decision, definitely. To this day it kills me a little bit.

"But growing up in Australia at the time, tennis was one of the biggest sports and it was easier to make it as a tennis player than as a basketball player. I do wish that I did play a bit of basketball, though. I'd take a couple of minutes off the bench anywhere!"

While his coaching team may not fully approve, Kyrgios spends much of his time on the basketball court honing his skills. He believes that a lot of what he does can be easily transferred onto the tennis court.

"The movement in basketball is actually very similar [to tennis]," he said. "My trainer and my team tell me not to play too much, obviously because of injuries, but I do love it and I do use it as cross-training.

"I actually played two nights ago with some mates for a couple of hours. I love the sport."

Kyrgios' Friday afternoon appearance in Melbourne was to launch the new Nike Vapor X Kyrie 5 sneakers, a shoe he and Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving had collaborated on.

Irving, who like Kyrgios was born in Australia, debuted the sneaker in Tuesday night's home win over the Brooklyn Nets. Kyrgios will wear them next Tuesday when he faces big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in the first round of the Australian Open.

"Obviously being a massive basketball fan, I was just so excited to have this collaboration with Kyrie. It's a dream come true," Kyrgios said. "I watched the entire game when he played against Brooklyn the other night. They feel really, really good. I feel like I could play tennis in these."

Kyrgios, a former quarterfinalist at Melbourne Park, will be hoping to go even better in 2019 as he seeks to climb back up the ATP world rankings. Currently he sits at No. 51 and is only the fourth-highest ranked Australian male.

"The Aussie summer is my favourite time of year," Kyrgios said. "The home fans, playing in Melbourne. I lived here for two years and to come back here and play against the best players in the world is a special moment.

"I think it's by far the best grand slam. The facilities are unbelievable and all the players have great feedback. I spoke to Roger [Federer] yesterday in the locker room and he said it's unbelievable, so to have a champion like that recognize what we've done for the grand slam is pretty special."