Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic are feuding. But when did this beef begin and why? We have delved into the archives to determine the origins of the escalating row.
Kyrgios has, to quote Stefanos Tsitsipas, "no filter, but is sometimes right".
Whether the Greek star was backing Kyrgios in his on-going beef with the world number one is open to debate, but what is certain is that the Australian star's disdain for the eight-time Australian Open winner has been long-standing, with Kyrgios hitting out at Djokovic back in 2019 when he made an appearance on Ben Rothenberg's podcast, No Challenges Remaining.
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Kyrgios had words to say about a host of top players - including Rafael Nadal - but reserved particular ire for Djokovic.
'He has a sick obsession with wanting to be liked - I just can’t stand him!'
"I just feel like he has a sick obsession with wanting to be liked. He just wants to be like Roger [Federer]," Kyrgios said.
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 that he does after matches, it’s like so cringeworthy. It’s very cringeworthy."
These comments came in May 2019, some two years after they faced each other at Indian Wells and Acapulco, two matches that the Australian won.
'You’re better than Djokovic'
Kyrgios’ focus seemed to retrain itself on Djokovic during the pandemic, first telling Andy Murray in an Instagram live that he was better than the 17-time Grand Slam winner.
"You’re too good. I’ve already told you… I think you should have one of the best careers ever. I’ve said that to you many times," Kyrgios said, swilling a glass of red wine back in May of 2020.
"I’m not going to make this controversial, but I honestly think you’re better than Djokovic. People are going to take to social media and say 'nah, Djokovic won this many Slams'.
"But Djokovic was playing dodgeball with my serve, he couldn’t return it and you’re on it and like, 'I'm slapping it for a winner'."
Murray replied: "Well, the results would probably suggest otherwise."
A 'boneheaded decision' that 'takes the cake'
However, it was the staging of the Adria Tour that seemed to intensify the animosity, with the Australian calling the staging of the tournament a "boneheaded decision”. He would tweet out a video of a shirtless Djokovic dancing, writing "don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’", and would also criticise a lack of leadership in the wake of a host of Covid-19 results.
And when Djokovic’s father - Srdjan - came to his son’s defence, Kyrgios fired back, telling the pair “not to push the blame.”
'There is an agenda, a witch-hunt'
While not referencing Kyrgios, Djokovic hit back telling Serbian outlet Sportski žurnal that the criticism he had received following the coronavirus outbreak at - and resulting cancellation of - his Adria Tour tennis event had been malicious and was tantamount to a witch-hunt.
“Lately I have seen only criticism, and a lot of it malicious,” began Djokovic.
There is obviously something more than just criticism, like there is an agenda, a witch-hunt. Like someone has to fall, some big name to be the main culprit for everything.
'How many years would I be banned for?'
The hostilities seemed to subside for a period but then Djokovic was disqualified at the US Open for striking a lineswoman with a ball, and so the Australian star ran a poll on his Twitter account asking how many years he would be banned for had he committed such an offence.
Twenty years was the consensus, by the way.
Djokovic, it appears, had made a conscious effort to refrain from engaging - at least publicly - with the spat. However, ahead of the Australian Open, the world number one made some demands on behalf of fellow players: asking for better food, more fitness equipment in rooms and potentially shortening the isolation time, among other things.
'Djokovic is a tool'
This led to some rebukes, with Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews firmly ruling out making exceptions to quarantine rules for players; while Kyrgios simply called the Serbian "a tool", and also criticised Bernard Tomic's partner for making her quarantine gripes public.
“Djokovic is a tool,” wrote Kyrgios on Twitter. “I don’t mind Bernie [Tomic] but his Mrs obviously has no perspective, ridiculous scenes.”
Kyrgios was not the only player to call him out though with former world No 53 Sam Groth saying the intervention was a “selfish political move”, and Kyrgios would again refer to Djokovic's pandemic behaviour ahead of the first slam of the year.
'He's technically our LeBron James'
Kyrgios offered an olive branch of sorts ahead of the Australian Open, calling the Serb tennis' LeBron James, before adding that the world number one needed to be held accountable for his actions.
"[Djokovic] is one of our leaders of our sport. He's technically our LeBron James in the way he has to be setting an example for all tennis players," Kyrgios told CNN.
"When he was doing some of the things he was doing during the global pandemic, it just wasn't the right time.
I know everyone makes mistakes, some of us go off track sometimes, and I think we have to hold each other accountable. No one else was really holding him accountable.
"Everyone loses their way a little bit but I think he just needs to pull it back."
'I don't have much respect for him'
However, having skilfully sidestepped the saga for much of the year, Djokovic went wading in during a pre-Australian Open press conference, telling reporters he did not respect the 25-year-old, saying:
"My respect goes to him for the tennis he's playing. I think he is a very talented guy.
‘I don't have much respect for him’ – Djokovic hits out at Kyrgios
He has got a big game. He has proven that he has a 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 him, his own comments for me or anything else he's trying to do."
Over to Kyrgios...
'He's a very strange cat, Novak is'
The war of words escalated again thereafter, with Kyrgios hitting back, calling the Serbian a “very strange cat”.
'That's as bad as it gets for me' - Kyrgios hits back at 'very strange cat' Djokovic
"Here we go. It's a strange one for me, because, you know, I read his comments, he said he doesn't respect me off the court," Kyrgios said.
"I'm, like, it actually would make complete sense to me if he was like, 'Look, I don't respect the guy on the court,' because I understand if he doesn't agree with some of my antics on the court that I have done in the past.
But I'm not quite sure how he can't respect me off the court. I feel like I've gone about things extremely well, especially during the pandemic.
"I was 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 to why he would say he doesn't respect me off the court. I actually do a lot off the court.
He's a very strange cat, Novak is. Heck of a tennis player, but unfortunately someone that's partying with his shirt off during a global pandemic, I don't know if I can take any slack from that man. That's as bad as it gets for me.
Well, the pair are on for a semi-final showdown should they both get that far. However, ahead of that there are press conferences aplenty, so watch this space.
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