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Tennis: Reluctant Aussie star Kyrgios targets number one spot

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Nick Kyrgios has his sights set on becoming tennis's world number one -- quite an ambition for a man who never wanted to play the sport in the first place.

The 19-year-old Australian had no interest in playing tennis as a youngster and instead fancied himself as a basketball star.

However, he has no regrets now after securing the biggest win of his career, saving an extraordinary nine match points and downing French 13th seed Richard Gasquet in the second round on his Wimbledon debut.

"I got into tennis when I was seven. My mum brought me down to the local tennis centre in Canberra, my home town. I wasn't keen. I didn't want to play it," said Kyrgios, the youngest man left in the draw.

"My dad was pretty big on becoming a tennis player. I enjoyed it as well. I loved basketball as well at the same time. I think it was good to have that balance of another sport while I was progressing.

"At 14 I had to make a choice, and I chose tennis. It wasn't a bad choice. I like it now."

Born and raised in the Australian capital Canberra, his father is a Greek painter and his mother a Malaysian computer engineer.

Kyrgios is on a career-high ranking of 144 -- but is set to surge up the pecking order following his Wimbledon debut.

"My goal is to become the number one player in the world," he said.

"I think it's just a long journey. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs. I've just got to do all the right things, work hard, keep having great effort. Hopefully if you marry that up with your ability on the court, anything is possible."

Kyrgios, playing on a wildcard, came back from two sets down to beat 2007 semi-finalist Gasquet 3-6, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 7-5, 10-8.

The nine match points saved en route to victory is a rare feat, with tennis officials finding only two other examples of the achievement at a Grand Slam in the post-1968 Open Era, while the Wimbledon record of 11 was set in 1966.

- 'I can do something special' -

Defending champion Andy Murray has tipped Kyrgios as one to watch and Gasquet said the teenager has everything it takes to become a top five player.

"He made me play some of the best tennis I ever played," Kyrgios said of Gasquet.

"They're very kind words. It's motivation to keep working hard. He's noticed I can do something special in this sport."

Lleyton Hewitt was the last Australian man to win a Grand Slam singles title, lifting the Wimbledon trophy in 2002.

"There's a little bit of pressure there. At the same time they obviously see that you can win Grand Slams and stuff like that," Kyrgios said.

"But I'm not really thinking too far ahead. I've got a long way to go still. I just have to stay on the ground and keep working hard.

"All the Aussies when they come to Wimbledon, we think we have a bit of an advantage because we are comfortable on the grass. It's an exciting time of the year. We don't get to play on it that often, but I think all our games suit it," he said.

Hewitt, the only other Australian left in the singles, was scheduled to resume his second round match with Polish 15th seed Jerzy Janowicz on Friday after rain brought a suspension on Thursday.

Kyrgios faces Jiri Vesely in the third round. The Czech wildcard beat French 24th seed Gael Monfils in the round of 64.

"He's also young. He's on the rise. He's got a really aggressive game, big serve. Big hitter as well," the Australian said of his next opponent.

"The grass is suiting him nicely. Well done to him, as well."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140626/tennis-reluctant-aussie-star-kyrgios-targets-number-one-spot