Novak Djokovic has said that he lacks respect for Nick Kyrgios after the controversial Australian’s attacks on the world No 1 throughout the pandemic.
Kyrgios last month described Djokovic as a ‘tool’ on social media after the Serb made suggestions about how quarantine conditions could be improved for other players. It was the latest in a series of insults that have followed Djokovic’s behaviour during the crisis.
As Djokovic prepared to defend his Australian Open title, he conceded that he believes his tormentor is good for the game, saying: ‘I think he’s a very talented guy. He’s got a big game. He has proven that he has a quality to beat any player in the world in the past.’
Novak Djokovic says he has little respect for Nick Kyrgios amid a war of words between them
But Djokovic added: ‘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.’
Kyrgios previously branded Djokovic ‘bone-headed’ for staging his Adria Tour charity event last year that led to several players testing positive for Covid.
The Serbian world No 1 asked for looser quarantine restrictions after several players were forced to stay in their hotel rooms after positive coronavirus tests on flights chartered to bring players to Melbourne for the Slam.
Kyrgios took a pop at Djokovic and Bernard Tomic’s girlfriend for complaining about their two weeks of quarantine inside a Melbourne hotel room
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 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 has been outspoken in his criticism of Djokovic’s behaviour during the pandemic
In response, Kyrgios tweeted: ‘Djokovic is a tool. I don’t mind Bernie but his Mrs obviously has no perspective, ridiculous scenes.’
Now Djokovic has responded, 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.
Kyrgios said he hadn’t missed tennis after spending a year away from the sport
‘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, an eight-time winner in Melbourne, opens his title defence against Jeremy Chardy on Monday. Kyrgios, meanwhile, open his tournament against Portuguese player Frederico Ferreira Silva.