NEW YORK -- Australia's Nick Kyrgios arrived in New York on Sunday having finally put a nice gloss on a year that started badly for him. Thanks to his upset win against Novak Djokovic two days earlier at the Mexico Open, Kyrgios even eclipsed the meltdowns he and fellow Australian bad boy Bernard Tomic had 48 hours earlier at the Acapulco event.
Kyrgios, far more than Tomic, has the massive talent, edgy image and box-office appeal to get invited to marquee events such as Monday night's Madison Square Garden exhibition (7 p.m. ET on ESPN3 and the ESPN app) alongside Grand Slam winners such as Venus Williams and Juan Martin del Potro, even though Kyrgios has never won a Slam. Not to mention that as recently as mid-January, Kyrgios was alternately defiant and contrite, dismissive and bitterly hard on himself after he blew a two-sets-to-love lead against Andreas Seppi in the second round of the Australian Open.
But even before numerous Australian legends such as Pat Rafter, Pat Cash and Mark Philippoussis weighed in with renewed disgust about Kyrgios' relapse in Melbourne -- some of them echoing John McEnroe's opinion that Kyrgios' late-match effort against Seppi was a "black eye for the sport and a black eye for him" -- Kyrgios conceded immediately after the match that he had to re-examine everything.
Kyrgios, who also served an ATP Tour-ordered suspension for tanking an October match in Shanghai, admitted he had prepared poorly for the new year. ("That's on me," he said. "I probably played too much basketball. Live and learn.") The world No. 16 mentioned that his status as probably the only player in the top 100 without a full-time coach could be an issue.
"That has to change," Kyrgios vowed.
So, Kyrgios was asked Sunday, has he offered the coaching job to anyone in the two months since?
"Umm, no, no one as of yet," Kyrgios said. "I've been thinking about it. But I think where my game is right now is pretty good.
"I think coming off one of my greatest wins last week against Djokovic, to do that without a coach is, I think, a great accomplishment. But, obviously, to take my game to the next step, I need a coach. So I'm still looking, but I'm not really forcing it. I just think you can't go from not having a coach to just having one, going from one extreme to the other. So I think I'm just going to ease into it and find someone that can care for me as a person, not just as a tennis player."
Asked who he calls now when he needs career advice or someone to lean on, Kyrgios answered, "My girlfriend [WTA tour player Ajla Tomljanovic]."
And that was it.
At the start of last week, Kyrgios and Tomic's lockstep careers seemed on a collision course in Acapulco with the promise of offering something new for a change. They looked likely to play each other for the first time as pros if they both got through their eminently winnable first-round matches at the Mexican Open. But what happened next was more of the same.
Tomic -- who led the ATP Tour with four in-match retirements last year and ignominiously holds the record for quickest loss ever in a men's tour event (just 28 minutes against Finn Jarkko Nieminen in 2014) -- quit in his Acapulco opener against Donald Young. Tomic claimed the 80-degree weather was "unbearable" and walked off the court without even bothering to summon a trainer.
People at the tournament were even more angry and stunned when Tomic, who has lost in the first round his past three events and dropped to No. 42, turned up on court just two hours later to play (and lose) his doubles match with Italian partner Paolo Lorenzi.
And Kyrgios? Though he was winning his opening match against Israeli veteran Dudi Sela in Acapulco, he paused at one point before hitting a serve to yell, "Shut the f--- up!" at fans who were enthusiastically supporting Sela. That prompted Sela to stop by Kyrgios' courtside chair after the match for an animated talk as an official stood nearby, trying to calm their conversation down.
When Kyrgios later saw an article saying that four Acapulco spectators were demanding an apology from him, he retweeted the story link and wrote above it:
"Man up. LOL."
Just like that, the glass-half-full contentions that both Kyrgios and Tomic are merely young as opposed to just appallingly entitled or hopelessly incorrigible got a little harder to maintain.
Yet one of the reasons the 24-year-old Tomic is, so far anyway, more estranged from the Australian tennis establishment than Kyrgios is that the ladder at least shows some compensating regrets about his behavior -- if sometimes on a delay.
Tomic, who has often warred with the Australian tennis federation in public, often exhibits next to no regrets. Tomic's father, John, has also clashed with the federation.
"I don't care about that match point -- would you care if you were 23 and worth over $10 million?" Tomic told a reporter at last year's Madrid Open after holding his racket by the strings on match point and not bothering to swing to seal his loss to Fabio Fognini.
"Everyone has a tipping point," Kyrgios said. "It's just whether people are able to resist the temptation to falling into being angry, to having negative thoughts. I think my threshold just needs to get better. I need to be a bit more resilient. I take the easy way out more on the tennis court. I think it's worked for most of my career, but I think for me to take the next step, I need to be able to maintain my emotions and work through it.
"I've been working really hard on my mentality and finding motivation."
Given Tomic's long track record of quitting matches and giving questionable effort, it's puzzling that the ATP hasn't reacted as forcefully to his Mexico Open walk-off as it did to Kyrgios' behavior in Shanghai. Last week, Australian tennis analyst Brett Phillips was the latest to call for Tomic to finally be suspended for tanking, as Kyrgios was. "It shouldn't be a monetary fine for these blokes," Phillips said, "because money means nothing for them."
But while Kyrgios is at least taking advice from the likes of Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, who was also in New York for Monday's exhibition, Tomic remains on the outside looking in. He didn't make himself available to play a late-January Davis Cup tie against the Czech Republic, and Hewitt said that while he hasn't ruled anything out, he won't go chasing anyone who doesn't want to play.
"I'm comfortable with the team I have," Hewitt said. "I've had a lot of long talks with Nick after he lost at the Australian Open. We had some really good conversations." And Tomic? "No, not really," Hewitt said. "I'm in touch. But I haven't been in the inner sanctum as much probably the last six months or so."
In late January, Hewitt said of Tomic: "I don't feel like while his father is around and in the picture and involved in his tennis so heavily, that he's going to have a chance to fulfill his potential."
Tomic didn't listen. Kyrgios is at least playing well, but is still without a coach.
The more some things change, the more some stay the same.