Nill Kyrgios relished the chance to get back to Albury this week.
The mother of tennis star, Nick, migrated from Malaysia to Queanbeyan and then moved to the Border where she was a student at Albury High School.
Nill relocated to Canberra after her school years and married husband, George, with three children (Christos, Halimah and Nick) to follow.
After watching Nick play in the Margaret Court Cup at the Albury grasscourts as a junior, Nill was honoured to be asked to open this year's event on Thursday.
She spoke to The Border Mail about her journey as a parent of one of the tennis world's superstars.
BEAU GREENWAY: What were some of your most memorable times growing up in Albury?
NILL KYRGIOS: I loved my school years here. I went to Albury High School and felt very welcome from Queanbeyan High School. I migrated from Malaysia to Queanbeyan High School and it was not a good place for me at that time, but Albury was fantastic. I loved the summers here when we used to hang around Noreuil Park and the Hume Weir was our favourite. All those memories always come back, I love coming back to Albury. Because I can't travel anywhere, the urge to travel is to Albury.
BG: When did Nick first start playing tennis?
NK: He first planted his little feet on the court when he was four. His job was to pick up balls for his brother and he did that perfectly and loved it. I sort of felt sorry for him so I gave him a racquet around seven and he could hit a ball very hard. He was a big boy, but I think he learned how to use his arm because he couldn't run and he hit it very hard.
BG: Can you recall his first tournament win?
NK: We used to come to the country towns all the time and I loved it and he loved it, because the food was great. He was eating sandwiches galore here (at the Margaret Court Cup). I remember in Gosford when he won his first under-12s tournament, the first speech he made he said 'I want to thank the canteen ladies for such good food' and I was shocked (laughs).
ALSO IN SPORT:
BG: He's gone on to play all around the world, do you have a favourite tournament?
NK: It's not the Australian Open because it's too nerve-wracking for me. I think Indian Wells is my favourite tournament.
BG: Does Nick have a favourite tournament?
NK: I've asked him this question a lot and he always says it's the Australian Open. He loves the crowds, he loves Hisense Arena because it's free for everyone, so everybody can go in and watch him play and the atmosphere there is just different.
BG: You've travelled with Nick a lot, do you have a most memorable match?
NK: I guess for everyone it would be the win against (Rafael) Nadal in 2014 at Wimbledon. It was memorable for the whole family and himself. The match against Roger Federer at Miami in 2017 was a fantastic match and very memorable for me because I was actually there.
BG: You've said you can't really watch Nick live, what do you put that down to?
NK: I'm proud to see him there on centre court, he's been on centre court in every tournament he's played, but for me he's still Nick and I don't like him out there being exposed. Most of the time I replay the match, even if he has lost because I like to watch the match afterwards. I just don't like going through the emotion of not knowing. I get worse as I get older.
BG: Is it difficult as a family to cope with the constant media spotlight on Nick?
NK: It was very hard at the beginning, but I think for Nick, he's a natural when he is speaking. He knows what people want to hear and he gets sick of what people want to hear, hence his unfiltered interviews where he just says what he thinks. He tries to cover it up a lot of the time with jokes or something funny, but he's naturally like that. He jokes around and I think we're both the same that we like to keep it light.
BG: What would be your advice to parents watching children play?
NK: When you're watching, just watch. When he was a junior I used to get a good book and would read to calm my nerves. He would come up to me and say, 'did you see that shot?' and I'd say 'oh yes, it was great' even though I didn't. Just being there is the main thing.
I remember in Gosford when he won his first under-12s tournament, the first speech he made he said 'I want to thank the canteen ladies for such good food' and I was shocked (laughs).Nill Kyrgios
BG: What's your key message for aspiring tennis professionals?
NK: You've got to find a bit of balance. I think Nick lost that when he turned pro and he started to get a bit more serious. I think he just wants to keep it more like something he still enjoys. As a junior you just try your best and set reasonable milestones. That's what we did. We didn't come to a tournament and say you're going to win, we'd say you might win a couple of rounds. Set yourself reasonable goals and you'll achieve those and feel really good.
BG: How important are tournaments like the Margaret Court Cup?
NK: You need to experience the match, it's very different. I'm telling these kids you might train hard and train well and most of them do, but it matters when the match is on and those shots you've practiced sometimes don't come because you don't know when to pull them off. That's where it counts, 'when do you a pull off a shot?' more than anything. The nerves as well. Matches here teach them that. You make friends at tournaments like this as well.
BG: Is Nick a chance to visit while you are here?
NK: He was going to come, but he's a bit afraid of the border changes. The problem is it changes every day and he's afraid if he maybe comes he'll have to quarantine. At the moment, he doesn't have to go through the quarantine phase. He will hang around Canberra until it's absolutely necessary for him to go to Melbourne (for the Australian Open). I think that's best for him. I did take a photo of three kids and sent it to Nick and he came back immediately and said 'maybe I'll come next time and teach you all how to serve', which was great (laughs).
BG: Is he preparing well for the Australian Open?
NK: He is going well. In Canberra it's great because the centre court in Melbourne is very similar to centre court (Rod Laver Arena) at the Australian Open. I think he's eager to play. He watches previous matches and he trains with (former professional) Alun Jones and the local players there. There's a few really good ones. I think he's got it good being in Canberra training.