(Reuters) - New York crowds have seen all sides of Nick Kyrgios barring his best one at the U.S. Open but fans may hope for more than a cranky cameo from the Australian firebrand this year.
By the time the final Grand Slam of the calendar rolls around, Kyrgios is usually tired, jaded and battling homesickness, which makes an early exit from Flushing Meadows seem more of a relief than disappointment.
Things may be different this year, though, as Kyrgios rounds off the most productive season of his rollercoaster career.
His maiden Grand Slam final at Wimbledon was almost as surprising to the 27-year-old as to his compatriots, many of whom had long written him off as a threat at the majors.
Since losing to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon decider, Kyrgios claimed the Citi Open title in a superb run of form before his nine-match winning streak was ended by Pole Hubert Hurkacz in Montreal.
That was followed by another setback in Cincinnati where he crashed out early with a customary rant at the chair umpire in defeat to Taylor Fritz.
However, the extra rest may be just what the Australian needs before New York amid reports of knee trouble.
"I am taking it one day at a time. I am not even looking
ahead," Kyrgios said in Montreal.
"Like there's no guarantees that even if I go into the U.S. Open fresh that I'm going to do well.
"There's so much effort going into my everyday
routine now ... I think it is the best way to live my life is to just go day-by-day, try to be a bit better every day."
Having often expressed disdain for the grind of the tour, Kyrgios now speaks of having a new mindset, if not a new-found love for the game.
That has fuelled a greater commitment to training, leaving him better equipped to battle through the longer matches that have previously proved his undoing.
He has never passed the third round at Flushing Meadows but may have a better chance of breaking new ground after earning a seeding with his recent improvement in rankings.
The world number 26 has rightfully described himself as a player no-one wants to face when on song.
With a thunderbolt first serve, sparkling shots on both sides and no fear for any opponent, Kyrgios has the game to topple anyone on tour, as world number one Daniil Medvedev found out in Montreal.
Whether he can bring it in New York remains to be seen.
While he laughs off critics who condemn his on-court histrionics, Kyrgios has admitted being affected by the negativity.
His byplay with crowds can quickly go toxic if his buttons are pushed.
One fan is taking legal action against him after he accused her of being "drunk out of her mind" at Wimbledon, adding to a separate court case for an assault charge back in Australia.
Those factors alone may add to the Australian's task in New York, but the bigger challenge may be how he handles his own expectations.
For all his talent and box office appeal, Kyrgios's fitness and indifferent attitude to the game meant he was never seriously seen as a Grand Slam contender -- until Wimbledon came along.
Now, having shown what he is capable of, he will carry the weight of having to prove it all over again.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)