By McCarton Ackerman
Throughout the year, EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com will be taking a look at players who could contend or surprise during this year's Series. First up for the men is the highest-ranked teenager on tour: Australian Nick Kyrgios, who recently reached his second Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open.
The Nick Kyrgios File
Residence: Canberra, Australia
Current Rank: 35
Career-High Rank: 35 (February 2015)
Best 2014 Series Finish: 2R (Toronto)
Kyrgios captivated tennis fans at this year's Australian Open, twice rallying from to two sets down en route to his second Grand Slam quarterfinal. To put his achievement into perspective, the last teenager to reach Grand Slam quarterfinals at two different majors was Roger Federer in 2001.
But while it was an impressive two weeks, Kyrgios had already shown he was capable of such results. He won his opening-round match at the Australian Open and claimed three Challengers in the first half of 2014, and announced his arrival to the tennis world that year at Wimbledon. After fighting off nine match points to defeat world No. 13 Richard Gasquet in the second round, he shocked then-world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round. Former Wimbledon champion and fellow Aussie Pat Cash boldly branded Kyrgios as "the future of tennis," and the flashy teen finished the year at No. 52, having climbed more than 130 spots in the rankings in 12 months.
The 6-foot-4 Kyrgios already possesses one of the biggest serves in men's tennis and uses it to set up his potent forehand. His aggressive baseline game is impressive when he's on, but his relative lack of a plan B can prove costly when he's having an off day.
The main goal for Kyrgios in 2015 is to stay healthy both mentally and physically. He only played one tournament last fall after citing "burnout" and recently pulled out of two events with a back injury. Since his run at Wimbledon, Kyrgios has only played in five tournaments.
But with fellow Aussies and former pro players Josh Eagle and Todd Larkham serving as his coaches, the trio have been working hard to add more subtlety to his game and keep his body in shape. And with minimal points to defend outside Wimbledon, Kyrgios will have ample opportunity to keep climbing the rankings and perhaps earn a seeding at this year's Series events. Last year he only competed in the Rogers Cup, but as he continues to work his way into a full touring schedule, look for the talented Aussie to add a few additional events in 2015 – which could make him a factor in this year's Series race.