The dual meaning behind McEnroe's generous bushfire pledge

MELBOURNE, Australia -- John McEnroe is a fan of Nick Kyrgios. He doesn't try to hide it.

The seven-time major champion and ESPN tennis commentator was so touched by Kyrgios' heartwarming announcement that he would donate AU$200 to the bushfire relief for every ace he serves this summer, that it inspired him to make a generous pledge of his own.

After the Australian had dispatched Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the opening round on Tuesday night, McEnroe, who was conducting the on-court interview for the host broadcaster, told Kyrgios he would personally be donating AU$1,000 for every set the local star wins throughout the Australian Open.

"I don't know what to say," a shell-shocked Kyrgios exclaimed. "You're going to make me tear up again."

McEnroe, a former world No. 1 and semifinalist at Melbourne Park, says he can relate to the devastation raging through Australia and wanted to play a part in the recovery efforts.

"We had been struggling with fires in California late last year and they came really close to my home," McEnroe told ESPN. "I was lucky but I can definitely relate. Still, it's so much more catastrophic here.

"Getting ready to come to Australia, a lot of people were saying 'are you going to Australia? What's going on? It looks so bad'. It's hard not to be aware of what's going on down here.

"I was reading up and seeing what Nick was doing (pledging his own funds and pushing for the successful Rally for Relief evening). To see him step up and do that, I think people will now see him in a different way. I know Nick as a person and he's a great guy. I just wanted to help."

When asked how deep he believes Kyrgios can run at this year's Open, McEnroe said he's the type of player who could surprise and still be vying for the title late in the second week. McEnroe added he hoped his pledge would serve as inspiration for a career-best fortnight.

"Nick's a total unknown," McEnroe told ESPN. "One of the reasons why I said I'd give what I said was to hopefully encourage him. The better he does the more I'm giving. It would be nice to see him live up to his potential."

Kyrgios' win over Frenchman Gilles Simon in the second round has already meant McEnroe will be donating AU$3,000. The Australian next faces Russian 16th seed Karen Khachanov for a place in the fourth round.