Lleyton Hewitt has backed Nick Kyrgios to win back public support, despite consistently courting controversy.
Kyrgios will return to competitive action in the New Year after being banned for eight weeks for his failure to produce an acceptable effort at the Shanghai Masters, in October.
Before then, the 21-year-old will team with the likes of Serena Williams to lead the Singapore Slammers in the exhibition format of the International Premier Tennis League.
— IPTL (@iptl) November 26, 2016
But Hewitt – one of Kyrgios’ mentors after experiencing similar problems in the early stages of his career – believes the youngster can once again become a favourite, rather than an embarrassment.
"I think he can win over the public," said the Australian Davis Cup captain.
"Obviously what happened in Shanghai was disappointing and (especially after) he made a few steps forward the week before and at the Davis Cup tie in Sydney a couple of weeks before that.
"Off the court, he's been fantastic with the other boys and a lot of the stuff that I guess that the media and public doesn't see.
"So I'm actually really happy in the place he's at within our team."
Despite Kyrgios’ controversies, he enjoyed the best season of his career, with Hewitt backing him to force his way into the world top 10.
— BB&T Atlanta Open (@BBTatlantaopen) November 29, 2016
"Nick's had a great year performance-wise, winning three titles, a 500 title for the first time, beating a lot of quality players, but I still feel there's improvement for him," he added.
'He's 13 in the world. Obviously the next step is to get top 10, which is well within reach."