Nick Kyrgios starting to take tennis seriously

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Like most great tennis players, Nick Kyrgios has goals this season. But the Aussie's have less to do with aces, winners and wins as they do with learning from his past behavioral shortcomings.

Still just 20 years old, Kyrgios is working to improve his perspective and maturity as he embarks on his second full year on the ATP Tour. His comportment of late suggests he's making headway.

"There are greater things happening in the world than me playing a tennis match," said Kyrgios, a 6-4, 6-4 winner against No. 3 Tomas Berdych at the Dubai Championships on Thursday.

"I had a couple of things last year off the court that made me look at the sport a little different," he said. "I'm just enjoying my tennis a little bit more now. I have the right people around me. I'm just sort of working hard and making the most of it when I'm on the court."

Kyrgios was speaking, among other incidents, of his crossing-the-line moment in 2015 when he made some inappropriate remarks to Stan Wawrinka, purportedly related to the Swiss' girlfriend at the Rogers Cup. The ATP eventually slapped Kyrgios with a fine and a six-month probation, which is soon to expire, insisting on good behavior with the threat of a mandatory tour suspension if he didn't shape up.

The learning curve in Kyrgios' tour life, both on and off the court, remains an ongoing project, but he's showing improvement. Tennis, as he's found out, isn't just a casual lifestyle for a gifted athlete, but a business that demands professionalism in order to have success.

"I'm definitely playing a lot better than I was last year," Kyrgios said. "I'm enjoying my practice sessions more. I was really struggling mentally toward the end of last year or midway through.

"Every day seemed like such a grind, or like a day job. But now I'm actually starting to enjoy it a little bit more."

Kyrgios has also made a concerted effort to keep the right supporting cast in tow and to simplify his life.

In Dubai, his brother, Christos, accompanied Kyrgios. And like his Davis Cup captain, Lleyton Hewitt, Kyrgios said he is close to securing a second home base in the Bahamas, since heading back to Australia is an arduous journey from most locales in the world.

Kyrgios is currently on a whirlwind trip that sent him from Marseilles to Dubai. Next week, he flies back to Melbourne for the first Davis Cup tie of the season.

"It's going to be a tough ask," Kyrgios said. "Obviously, me and Bernard [Tomic], need to do well this week and then travel back home, get comfortable on the grass, play two quality players in Jack Sock and John Isner, is going to be tough. And to fly back to America [for back-to-back Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami] after that is going to be a real challenge for both of us."

While Kyrgios has showed seasoned behavior on the court, he still cautions that he won't lose his identity as a person.

"I'm just going to keep winning tennis matches and at the end of the day I'm not going to change who I am," Kyrgios said. "Obviously, I think I've matured a lot from last year. But at the same time I'm not going to change. I'm going to continue to say what I think."