Australian tennis legend Rod Laver with a larger-than-life statue of himself, sculpted by Lis Johnson, outside Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
Australian tennis legend Rod Laver with a larger-than-life statue of himself, sculpted by Lis Johnson, outside Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. JULIAN SMITH

Laver says Kyrgios 'could be the best tennis player in the world'

TENNIS: Nick Kyrgios has the tools on hand to be the best player in the world, according to a man who many consider to be the best to have ever played the game.

Australian tennis legend Rod Laver was at Melbourne Park on Thursday to unveil a new statue that stands in front of the arena named in his honour and said he would love nothing more than to see Kyrgios - ranked 13th in the world - get to the top.

"Ability-wise, he could be the best tennis player in the world,” said the 11-time grand slam winner, nicknamed the Rockhampton Rocket.

"Only he is the one that gets in his way, looking at maybe maturity - he's still only (21 years old). He's still very young on the world tour.

"I want him to be the best player in the world. We need another great Australian champion.”

Laver said Kyrgios - who has won both his singles matches at the Hopman Cup in Perth this week, ahead of Thursday night's match-up with America - is on a steep learning curve and that great responsibility comes with representing Australia on the world stage.

"He plays some magnificent tennis, but then something gets in the way and he finds himself being challenged by other things, whether it's behaviour or whatever seems to come up,” he said.

"If it's competition that isn't going his way, how do you get out of it? It's a learning curve in the game of tennis.

"I didn't throw my racquet heaps (when I played), but disappointment ... maybe I took mine inward.”

Laver's new statue is the result of 18 months of work for artist Lis Johnson, who worked closely with the former world No.1 to achieve the likeness in the famous pose that depicts the now-78 year old's renowned backhand.

HERALD SUN


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