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As he takes the court for the Australian Open, the stage is set for Nick Kyrgios’ redemption.

In the wake of the devastating bushfires that have swept our nation, we have seen an incredible outpouring of support throughout Australia.

With the world’s greatest tennis players all in Australia for the Australian Open, the amount of awareness and financial support from the tennis community has been astounding.

Wednesday night’s Rally for Relief raised nearly $5 million, in addition to the millions donated by individual players, tennis governing bodies and the Aces for Bushfire Relief campaign ($100 will be donated for every ace served during the Australian summer).

However, the man who brought this to the attention of the tennis world will come as a surprise to some: Nick Kyrgios.

Watch: Good Morning Britain blasts Australian government on bushfire response. Post continues after video.

The mercurial Aussie tennis star pledged to personally donate $200 for every ace he hit over the Australian summer.

With one of the biggest serves in world tennis, this guaranteed a significant sum of money. The rest of Australia’s ATP Cup team, Alex De Minaur, John Millman and John Peers followed suit, with the governing bodies and other players joining soon after.

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The added incentive seemed to spark a rise in Nick Kyrgios’ performance, winning all of his group stage singles matches at the ATP Cup (including a three-set epic against world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas), before backing it up with an outstanding doubles win in the quarter-final against Great Britain.

Although he was outplayed by world number nine Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-final, it seemed as if Nick Kyrgios had turned a corner both on and off the court.

His genuine emotion and passion in his tearful on-court interview, where he discussed the personal impact the fires have had on him, endeared him to the Australian public in a manner that we have not seen since his famous victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014.

He was no longer the tennis villain who smashed racquets on court, tanked at Wimbledon and made lewd remarks about a competitor’s girlfriend. Donning the Australian green and gold, he was finally one of us.

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Nick Kyrgios has always raised his game to another level when playing for his country.

He was unbeaten in the recent Davis Cup Finals in Madrid. He has spoken at length about his love for representing Australia. Often, due to the tennis calendar and television coverage, these matches are away from Australia and out of the Australian eye.

The prime position of the ATP Cup in the Australian summer, however, has afforded Australians an opportunity to see Kyrgios representing Australia at home.

It should be acknowledged that the 24-year-old likely has a complicated relationship with his country.

Early on in his career, Olympic gold medallist Dawn Fraser said that the Australian of Greek-Malaysian descent should “go back to where [his] parents came from.” Shock jock Prue MacSween labelled Kyrgios a “spoilt little Greek brat” and Kyrgios himself often shares racist remarks he receives on social media.

But in recent weeks, it would appear he’s put his frustration with the media and his detractors aside for a cause greater than us all.

The result is that after a stellar week of dedication and fundraising efforts, there have been significantly fewer people condemning his performance, and far more praising him for his fighting spirit.

But Kyrgios’ tennis trajectory has never been linear.

For every step forward he takes, there’s often a step back.

After his incredible victory in Acapulco last year, defeating three top 10 players including Rafael Nadal, he was defaulted for throwing a chair in Rome just a few months later.

As he navigates the ups and downs of young adulthood, there is hope that his performances will become more consistent.

Nick Kyrgios celebrates with Team Captain Lleyton Hewitt winning match point during his quarter final singles match at the 2020 ATP Cup. Image: Andy Cheung/Getty Images.
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But while most of us are focusing on Kyrgios' potential to turn a corner on court, his charitable work off the field has long eclipsed his racquet skills.

In 2015, Kyrgios established the NK Foundation to order to assist underprivileged children through sport.

Last year alone, he provided free coaching to over 1,500 children all around Australia. His aim is to build a facility in Melbourne that will provide accommodation and sporting facilities.

Kyrgios’ philanthropic efforts did not start with bushfire relief, but only now have they been thrown into the spotlight.

No matter what Kyrgios does at the Australian Open, it is likely that his efforts, both on and off-court, will afford him the full support of the nation.

With the Olympics looming as another opportunity for Kyrgios to don the green and gold, he has the potential to cement himself as an Australian icon once and for all.

Whether it be in singles or potentially mixed doubles with world number one, Ash Barty, he will give Australia a real shot at adding to their medal tally.

Even without all this, there is definitely a sense that Nick Kyrgios is on his way to redeeming himself in the eyes of the Australian public. And it's the narrative we weren't even aware we so desperately wanted.

Feature Image: Getty.

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