Nick Kyrgios’ bitter feud with Novak Djokovic is the talk of tennis… from the Aussie calling his rival a ‘TOOL’ over his views on Covid to the world No 1 admitting his lack of ‘respect’ for the sport’s bad boy – yet they have only met TWICE on the court!
- Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios have been embroiled in a bitter war of words
- Serb said he had no respect for the outspoken Aussie after recent comments
- Kyrgios has been critical of world No 1’s stance during the current Covid crisis
- The Australian called out Djokovic’s ‘boneheaded’ Adria Tour held last summer
- He also labelled Djokovic a ‘tool’ for his list of quarantine demands in Australia
The buildup to this year’s delayed Australian Open was dominated not by matters on the court, but by a slanging match off it.
Novak Djokovic is looking to extend his record of eight titles in Melbourne, but all the interest was not in his approach to winning Grand Slam No 18, but for his extraordinary list of quarantine demands upon arrival Down Under.
Nick Kyrgios described the world No 1 as a ‘tool’ on social media after his suggestions, the latest in a series of insults that have followed Djokovic’s behaviour during the Covid crisis.
Novak Djokovic (left) says he has little respect for Nick Kyrgios (right) amid a war of words
They have since responded to each other in kind, with Djokovic admitting he doesn’t have much respect off the court for the outspoken Aussie bad boy.
Kyrgios then blasted back, calling him ‘a very strange cat’ and saying that he wouldn’t take any criticism from ‘someone partying with his shirt off in a pandemic.’
The pair are unlikely to meet in this year’s Australian Open, with no meeting possible before the semi-final and Kyrgios having failed to reach even a Grand Slam quarter-final since 2015.
The pair have an ongoing feud despite meeting only twice on the court, back in 2017
Their extraordinary spat is almost entirely manufactured off the court. They have met only twice on it, both times in 2017, and with Kyrgios the victor on both occasions.
Here, Sportsmail looks at what sparked their public feud and how it has developed since the onset of the pandemic last year…
IT ALL BEGAN WITH A PODCAST…
Kyrgios did not hold back on his true feelings towards Djokovic when he appeared on the No Challenges Remaining podcast in May 2019.
‘I just feel like he has a sick obsession with wanting to be liked. He just wants to be like Roger (Federer). For me personally — I don’t care right now, I’ve come this far — I feel like he just wants to be liked so much that I just can’t stand him.
‘This whole celebration thing (blowing kisses to the crowd) that he does after matches, it’s like so cringeworthy.
Kyrgios blasted Djokovic’s ‘cringeworthy’ celebration and said he ‘has a sick obsession with wanting to be liked’
‘(But) we’re talking about a guy who pulled out of the Australian Open one year because it was too hot. No matter how many Grand Slams he wins, he will never be the greatest for me.
‘Simply because, I’ve played him twice and like, I’m sorry, but if you can’t beat me, you’re not the greatest of all time.’
Djokovic took the criticism in his stride, and said he ‘wasn’t losing sleep’ over the claims, before he said a month later: ‘What can I say to Nick Kyrgios. I really think he’s not really a bad guy.
‘I do not know why he declares all these things, whether he wants to draw attention or some motive is different.’
After his first round victory on Monday, Kyrgios said the world no 1 was ‘a very strange cat’
While Djokovic remained guarded, Kyrgios couldn’t be less so. He tweeted ‘Federer please win’ ahead of their epic meeting in the 2019 Wimbledon final.
Footage emerged of Kyrgios signing his name over a fan’s ‘Novak’ t-shirt during the Atlanta Open, telling the camera ‘that’s what I think of you’ after crossing out Djokovic’s name.
Kyrgios was spotted in the stands watching a Djokovic doubles match at the ATP Cup last January, where he was reportedly heckling the world No 1 as well as blowing kisses to the cameras.
Djokovic was again restrained in his response, when asked if he was disappointed by the late-night visit: ‘To be honest, not really. I didn’t see him in the stands but then I saw the videos after that [on social media]. I know he’s a good buddy with (France’s Gael) Monfils and with the French team, so, you know, it’s fine.’
He did, however, add a slight dig: ‘And Kyrgios knows how to have fun and how to attract attention, that’s for sure.’
As lockdown hit around the world, Kyrgios was more and more prevalent on social media.
In one Instagram Live appearance with Andy Murray he claimed to have drunk six glasses of red wine as he slurred his words and told the Scot he was better than his Serbian rival.
In another chat with fellow Aussie player Thanasi Kokkinakis he mustered some kind words: ‘I don’t actually hate anyone. I can admit that people are different. I don’t like some of the things he [Djokovic] does but I don’t hate him,’ he said.
The niceties, though, did not last long.
COVID AND THE DISASTROUS ADRIA TOUR
Goodwill has hardly been forthcoming for Djokovic in the past year. Determined to get tennis back going again after the spread of coronavirus forced a complete halt to the tour and the cancellation of an entire summer’s worth of tournaments, Djokovic spearheaded the disastrous Adria Tour.
Held in June last year, during the middle of the first wave of the pandemic, it attracted immediate criticism for even attempting to go ahead.
That outrage then only escalated when it became clear there were absolutely no health and safety protocols in place, including a lack of face coverings and social distancing.
Kyrgios (left) took a shot back at Djokovic (right, at Adria Tour event he organised last summer) and said he could not take slack ‘from someone partying in a pandemic’
Kids stood shoulder to shoulder during the opening ceremony and players openly embraced on the court.
Djokovic was quick to defend his brainchild: ‘We have different circumstances and measures, so it’s very difficult to think of international standards.
‘You can also criticise us and say this is maybe dangerous, but it’s not up to me to make the calls about what is right or wrong for health,’ he continued.
The fallout only intensified when players tested positive, including Djokovic himself. Kyrgios tweeted ‘Oh boy’ when the news broke, and labelled the entire event a ‘boneheaded decision’ as the world came out to condemn the Serb.
Footage then circulated of Djokovic dancing shirtless with several players on a night out during the event. Kyrgios wasn’t shy in tweeting his thoughts: ‘Prayers up to all the players that have contracted COVID-19. Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been “irresponsible” or classified as “stupidity” – this takes the cake.’
When Dominic Thiem defended the Serb and accused the Australian of making ‘a lot of mistakes himself’, Kyrgios did not hold back.
‘What are you talking about, Dominic Thiem? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here or there? Which everyone does?’ said Kyrgios
Kyrgios had a pop at Djokovic for holding his infamous Adria Tour and the Australian believes similar criticisms cannot be sent back at him given his behaviour during the Covid pandemic
‘None of you have the intellectual level to even understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable.
‘This just shows what a joke Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, and Novak Djokovic think this is. Two of them partying like potato’s (sic) during a global pandemic. People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake”, he replied.
‘These guys are the “top” of our sport. SMH.’
Djokovic accused his detractors of a ‘witch hunt’ and insisted his actions were ‘right and correct’ and that if he had the chance to do the tour again, he would.
Djokovic (centre) with Dominic Thiem (left) and Alex Zverev (right) during the Adria Tour
‘I don’t think I’ve done anything bad to be honest. I do feel sorry for people that were infected,’ he said.
‘Scary that people take zero ownership,’ Kyrgios replied on his Instagram story. ‘Group of albatrosses.’
A miserable few months for Djokovic were compounded when he was thrown out of the US Open in September after whacking a ball into a line judge.
The Aussie fired a sarcastic suggestion onto his Twitter account: ‘Swap me for jokers incident. “Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat” how many years would I be banned for?’ with a poll giving fans the option of answering five, 10 or 20 years.
Djokovic was thrown out of the US Open in September after hitting a line-judge with a ball
Kyrgios wasted no time after Djokovic’s moment of madness by setting up this poll on Twitter
QUARANTINE CHAOS DOWN UNDER
A quiet few months were brought to an end in January as preparations for this year’s delayed Australian Open were put in motion.
Almost 1,000 international players and support staff have spent at least 14 days in quarantine for the chance to be able to play.
72 players were unable to train during their two-week quarantine period ahead of the Australian Open after positive results on flights from Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
Djokovic, who was amongst a group with preferential conditions in Adelaide, called for the length of the isolation to be reduced, better food, access to fitness equipment and coaching teams, and players to be moved from hotels into private homes with tennis courts on site. The request was turned down.
Bernard Tomic’s girlfriend, Vanessa Sierra, also complained about the cold food and moaned she had to wash her own hair and would have to use the same toilet as her boyfriend.
Kyrgios took a pop at Djokovic prior to the start of the Australian Open by calling him a ‘tool’
In response, Kyrgios tweeted: ‘Djokovic is a tool. I don’t mind Bernie but his Mrs obviously has no perspective, ridiculous scenes.’
Djokovic responded at the weekend, saying he has respect for Kyrgios on the court but not off it.
He said: ‘I think he’s good for the sport. Obviously he’s someone that is different. He goes about his tennis, he goes about his off-court things in his own authentic way.
‘I have respect for him. I have respect for everyone else really because everyone has a right and freedom to choose how they want to express themselves, what they want to do.
‘My respect goes to him for the tennis he’s playing. I think he’s a very talented guy. He’s got a big game. He has proven he has the quality to beat any player really in the world in the past.
‘Off the court, I don’t have much respect for him, to be honest. That’s where I’ll close it. I really don’t have any further comments for his, his own comments for me or anything else he’s trying to do.’
Djokovic, watching a first-round match on Tuesday, says he has no respect for the Australian
Kyrgios was presented with Djokovic’s latest slapdown after he emerged unscathed in his first-round match, beating Federico Ferreira Silva 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
‘He’s a very strange cat, Novak is,’ he said.
‘Heck of a tennis player. But someone who is partying with your shirt off in a pandemic… I don’t think I can take any slack from that man.’
Again, Kyrgios’ comments came back to Djokovic’s ill-fated Adria Tour and he insisted that no such criticism can be sent back in his direction for how he has behaved during the pandemic.
‘I’m not quite sure how he can’t respect me off the court,’ Kyrgios added.
‘I feel like I’ve gone about things extremely well, especially during the pandemic I was – I mean, driving around delivering food to people during the pandemic that didn’t or couldn’t get the supplies.
‘I was extremely careful about what I was doing. I didn’t want to spread the virus to anyone.
‘Now I’m actually trying to donate meal kits to people that need food. I have my foundation. So it’s very strange to me as why he would say he doesn’t respect me off the court. I actually do a lot off the court.’
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