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Hewitt: Kyrgios can break Australia's 41-year Open drought

Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

Lleyton Hewitt has anointed Nick Kyrgios as a genuine chance to break the host nation's 41-year Australian Open men's singles title drought as he hands the baton and home pressures to Australian tennis's generation next.

After a record 20 consecutive Open appearances, Hewitt will this year be mentoring and closely monitoring Australia's Melbourne Park hopefuls as Davis Cup captain.

And he has no doubt Kyrgios - set to be seeded 14th after his breakout three-title season in 2016 - is ready to cope with the spotlight as the host country's biggest title hope.

Hewitt was courtside on Monday night cajoling Kyrgios as the 21-year-old two-time grand slam quarter-finalist allayed fitness concerns with an impressive Fast4 win over Rafael Nadal in Sydney.

His victory over the 14-time major champion came after he battled a knee injury in a straight-sets loss in his third and final match at the Hopman Cup.

"Nick's first two matches in Perth were pretty impressive.

Ball striking was great. He was moving really well (with) good intensity," Hewitt said.

"He's going to be seeded quite high as well so he's got a good chance.

"Outside that top group who have won slams, he's certainly in that next group.

"No doubt he plays well in the majors. He plays well over five sets and now that he is in the top 16 seeds, he doesn't have to play those (top) guys until the second week."

Hewitt famously defied a painful hip injury to storm to the 2005 final in Melbourne and believes Kyrgios, with his ferocious firepower, is even more capable of embarking on a similarly brave run.

"He's had some niggles before and one thing with Nick, he doesn't need a lot of matches under his belt. He can go in fresh and play extremely well," Hewitt said.

"He's different (to me). I still think I had to get enough time on court for my hitting and my rhythm.

"But Nick doesn't need that. For him, it's more about what the issues are (and) getting on top of that.

"The biggest thing for him is going to be managing his body over the next five or six days."

Pat Cash, with back-to-back five-set defeats to Swedes Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander in 1987 and 1988, is the only other Australian apart from Hewitt - who lost to Marat Safin - to make the men's Open final since Mark Edmondson reigned in 1976.

"There's going to be a lot of pressure and expectation on Nick. He does normally handle it pretty well," Hewitt said.

"Anyone playing in their national grand slam, all eyes are on you the weeks leading into it.

"There's a lot of demands as well for your time and it's about handling all of that and block it out as much as possible."