LONGBOAT KEY -- Being labeled the future of tennis carries a burden not everyone is equipped to handle.
For Nick Kyrgios, that mantle sometimes creeps into his head when he's trying to take down his next opponent.
On Sunday, the Australian defeated Filip Krajinovic in straight sets, 7-6 (12-10), 6-4, to win the $100,000 Sarasota Open, an ATP Challenger Tour event, Sunday at the Longboat Key Club.
"It's a bit of weight on my shoulders at times out here," Kyrgios said. "But it's also pretty exciting and motivating to wake up every morning to be called, 'The Next Big Thing' because it just gives me motivation to keep working hard in the gym and on the court. But some stages out here, it does play on my mind and it is tough to overcome, but that's sort of been the theme of this week. I've somehow found a way."
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Kyrgios, who is currently ranked No. 221 in the world, was playing in his first tournament in more than two months after suffering an in
jury along his right side to his shoulder and elbow areas.
"I really wasn't expecting to win the tournament this week at all," said Kyrgios, who collected more than $8,000 for his victory. "I was coming out here and I just snuck into the main draw. I knew I had the potential to do well, but I was just going to come have fun and see where I was physically."
In Sunday's final, though, the 18-year-old battled Krajinovic, who made his third final in three weeks.
Both players displayed solid tennis for the crowd of roughly 1,400 spectators. Krajinovic, a 22-year-old Serbian, showcased some deft touch with delicate drop shots that wreaked havoc for Kyrgios.
"I dropped some (shots) really well," said Krajinovic, who saved seven of nine break points in the match. "Some big ones. Some important points."
But the key to the match was who would prevail in the opening set, which seemed destined for Kyrgios to take from the outset.
The Australian teen held a 3-0 lead, before Krajinovic battled back. Eventually, the duo went to a tiebreak that ended with Kyrgios winning, 12-10.
"I really felt I was on top of the match from the get-go," Kyrgios said. "A couple loose errors and a couple really good shots from him got him back into the match. I was really lucky to get the tiebreaker. It could have gone either way and whoever got that tiebreaker was really going to step on the match and take it. He made three finals in three weeks, and I think he's really confident out here."
The momentum gained from securing the tiebreak aided Kyrgios in reeling off a break in the opening game of the second set en route to his the Challenger Tour title, which comes seven days before his 19th birthday.
Now he'll head to Savannah brimming with confidence for next week's Challenger Tour event, where he'll look to continue improving his world ranking.