MELBOURNE, Australia — After Nick Kyrgios dropped the first two sets to Grigor Dimitrov in their tense, back-and-forth fourth-round match at the Australian Open, a spectator called out to him as he dejectedly walked back to the service line, “Pick your head up.”

Kyrgios literally did lift his head for a moment, generating a laugh from the packed Rod Laver Arena audience. He also picked up his spirits — and his game — and slowly clawed his way back into the match.

As tends to be the case with Kyrgios, however, his focus soon wavered. Dimitrov won the match 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4) and Kyrgios was left searching, yet again, for a solution to whatever is holding him back from contending for major titles.

Kyrgios has long been touted as a multiple Grand Slam winner and potential future No. 1, but the 22-year-old is still struggling to get closer to the top.

In fact, his results in recent years are moving in the wrong direction. He’s only reached two Grand Slam quarterfinals in his career, and the last came at the Australian Open three years ago. He’s lost before the fourth round in nine of the last 12 majors.

Despite falling short on Sunday, however, Kyrgios was upbeat in defeat, believing he’s still a work in progress.

“I feel confident after losing that match. I gave my best efforts this week. I came up short. I beat three quality opponents,” he said. “I lost tonight to one of the best players in the world. Went down swinging. Obviously I feel a lot better this time around.

“Last year I really didn’t know what I was going to do after the Australian Open. I feel like I have more of a vision and goal for this year. I think I’m in a good head space.”

Kyrgios has long been combustible, prone to magnificent play one moment and head-scratching errors the next. He seemed to be playing with newfound composure at Melbourne Park this year, though there were moments against Dimitrov when he played too loosely and took unnecessary risks.

He smacked a number of second serves at 200 kph (124 mph). He went for — and sometimes missed — huge forehands to end lengthy rallies and charged the service line at times to receive Dimitrov’s first serves.

“Frustrating,” said Dimitrov, when asked what it’s like to play someone as unpredictable as Kyrgios. “Simple as that. You’ve always got to be alert. You never know what’s going to happen. He served a couple of second serves over 200 today. What can you do?”

Kyrgios is without a coach again after briefly working with former French player Sebastien Grosjean last year, and he doesn’t appear to be looking for a new one. Andre Agassi, who’s currently coaching Novak Djokovic, believes a coach could be hugely beneficial to the young Australian.

“To go it alone and not get access to things tried and lessons learned is an unforced error,” Agassi told the Australian media this week.

For now, Kyrgios believes he’s doing fine on his own.

“You know, I feel like I have lost one match this year, so I’m doing all right,” he said, reflecting on his Australian Open run and his title at the Brisbane International, where he beat Dimitrov in the semifinals. “I was in a very structured environment when I was young and I didn’t like it. I guess I have just now gone to the other extreme.”

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JUSTIN BERGMAN
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