London: Nick Kyrgios is three years away from winning a Grand Slam and the latest in an illustrious line of tennis 'bad boys' bound for greatness, said former Wimbledon champion Jan Kodes.
The Czech said Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase and Roger Federer were also a whole load of trouble at the same age -- yet they matured and won a slew of majors.
Kodes who won the French Open in 1970 and 1971 then Wimbledon in 1973, said modern players were surrounded by coaches, advisers, physios and psychologists -- yet the key components of becoming a winner had not changed in 50 years.
The 69-year-old said Kyrgios, the talented but temperamental Australian whose volatile behaviour on and off the court shook up this year's Wimbledon, definitely had the makings of a Grand Slam champion. "I've seen him play. Kyrgios has great volleys, serves, everything. He plays a round game.
He needs three more years and he might win," Kodes told AFP. "Look at Connors, McEnroe and Nastase when they were 20. They all behaved badly. Federer in the juniors was terrible, breaking racquets. The press would like to have Kyrgios behave like he's 28. But he's not, he's 20. "You need time to get experience. When you are young, you don't think.
You don't have any responsibility. You can take risks." - Learning how to win - Kodes, an inductee in the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF), said self-belief, an array of "weapons" and, critically, deploying those skills at the right moment remained the difference between good players and champions.
"There are some people who say tennis is completely different from my era, but I don't agree. Either you stay back or you come in and make the points," said Kodes, who was known for his attacking groundstrokes. "The key things are the same; the only difference is guys can hit harder, but even so, they can make mistakes at important moments.
"You can have a good coach, a big weapon but you have to be able to sell it during the match, otherwise you can't win. It's about confidence and awareness how to win. It's easy to learn the strokes but very difficult to find out how to win.
"Today's coaches try to be too important in the game but they can't play the strokes -- you have to do that for yourself." Kodes is back at Wimbledon, where he received Wednesday a giant, personalised ring commemorating his induction into the ITHF, as per the tradition in sports halls of fame.
The former champion said the key to winning Wimbledon was not a booming serve, as many think, but a smart return. "Novak Djokovic is able to return serves which others can't. Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Federer are very good returners. They don't have the big weapon serves, but serve smart," he said. "There are always 128 in the draw but only five or six can win it.
The others are not strong enough, smart enough or have enough weapons." - 'Hear the voice of the ball' - Kodes won Wimbledon in the year 81 ATP players boycotted the tournament, but "60 of those were not important", said the Czech.
Nastase, Connors, Bjorn Borg and Roger Taylor still competed. Kodes said the All England Club in southwest London had a bit of theatrical magic about it. "You feel like Wimbledon is an event. Some players are a little bit afraid when they play here," he said, looking out over the lawns. "You feel the history here, especially on Centre Court.
It has very good acoustics. You hear the voice of ball. It's like a concert arena." The right-hander said he still likes to get the racquet out two or three times a week and would enjoy competing nowadays. "I would drop shot Nadal every second ball. Everybody tries to beat Nadal from the baseline, which is so stupid: you can't!" the two-time US Open finalist said.