World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has given Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios a taste of his own medicine at the Australian Open 2021. Djokovic's curt reply to a question about the Aussie may be catching some flak (which is normal for just about anything the Serb does these days), but is still in some ways away from the comments Kygios has gotten away with in the past. From calling Djokovic a 'bonehead' after the Adria Tour fiasco (the warmer of his many icy comments), to calling him a 'tool' for demanding better conditions for lower-level players during quarantine, Kyrgios has slipped his heart out. Now it's the Serb's turn.
Talking to the press before his Round 1 match against France's Jeremy Chardy, Djokovic made it clear that there is no love lost between himself and Nick Kyrgios. Still more elegant than the controversial Aussie, Djokovic did not stoop to name-calling, rather accepting that Kyrgios was talented though, unusual.
“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 very talented guy. He’s got a big game. He has proven that he has a quality to beat any player really in the world in the past".
However, Djokovic was not entirely placatory, concluding his comments by stating: “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 him, his own comments for me or anything else he’s trying to do”.
Not one to sit silently, it is no surprise that Kyrgios had an acerbic response for the Serbian. Unable to resist another notorious headline-grabbing moment, Kyrgios re-posted an old quote of his to his Instagram stories. The line in question was spoken by Kyrgios during his interview with the 'No Challenges Remaining' podcast in 2019, where Kyrgios had said: “No matter how many grand slams he wins, he will never be the greatest for me".
Kyrgios' flimsy, self-aggrandising reasoning for this conclusion? "I’ve played him twice and, I’m sorry, but if you can’t beat me, you’re not the greatest of all time”. While it is true that Kyrgios has a 2-0 head to head advantage over Djokovic, it is telling that both wins came in 2017, at the lowest point of Djokovic's career. The two have not played since and are unlikely to face each other at the Australian Open 2021.