Nick Kyrgios has described Roger Federer as the Michael Jordan of tennis and says without him “there is no Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal”.
Federer, 40, is the oldest of the ‘Big Three’ and had already won four Grand Slam titles by the time Nadal, 34, won his first in 2005.
Although Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all now have 20 Grand Slam titles, Kyrgios still sees Federer as the leader of the pack.
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“For me, Federer is the Michael Jordan of tennis,” he told the No Boundaries podcast.
“What he accomplished for the sport, with the fans, with the kids… Of the three, I think it is Federer that the kids admire the most. Overall, he is the one who has changed the sport the most.
“And it's his retirement that will hurt tennis the most. For sponsors, etc. Without Federer, there is no Djokovic or Nadal. They were chasing him.
“The GOAT? Today I say Federer. The most influential player to ever play is Federer. His game is copied. On the tour there are guys like [Grigor] Dimitrov who have literally copied his game. Dude, find your own style!
“No one really plays like Novak while people emulate Federer. Even I imitate his gesture in the serve sometimes. If Novak wins another Grand Slam, he will go ahead."
Kyrgios has hardly played over the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a knee injury that cut his 2021 season short. His last match was at the Laver Cup in September and he has dropped down to No 90 in the world.
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He also spoke about the vaccination situation surrounding the 2022 Australian Open and Djokovic’s uncertainty over playing due to the Covid-19 protocols. It has not yet been confirmed if players will need to be vaccinated to play the tournament, but Djokovic has not revealed whether he has been jabbed.
“Kyrie [Irving, NBA player who refuses to be vaccinated], Novak…These guys gave so much, they sacrificed so much. They are international athletes admired by millions of people. I think it is morally wrong to force someone to be vaccinated," said Kyrgios.
“I'm double vaccinated, but you can't force someone to be vaccinated or say ‘you can't play here because you're not vaccinated’. There are other solutions, like being tested every day. They have rapid tests in the United States, it happens in Australia. It's 85 per cent effective and you get the result in 15 minutes.
“I don't think the next Australian Open should take place. We must send a message to the people of Melbourne who have lived through 275 days of confinement.”
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Kyrgios also couldn’t resist taking a pop at long-time rival Djokovic by teasing about them playing doubles together in Melbourne.
“I'm sure Novak is 'bigger' internationally than Kyrie. Novak is the king of Serbia. We're talking about one of the best tennis players in history… Hey Novak, are we playing doubles together at the Australian Open baby? No, I'm kidding, I wouldn't do that to myself."
Kyrgios said in the summer that he is hopeful he will be “100 per cent by the Australian Open" after heading home to recover from a left knee injury.
Djokovic kicked off his bid for a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title by beating Casper Ruud in his opening match of the tournament on Monday. Djokovic was presented with a trophy after the match for securing the year-end No 1 ranking for a record seventh time, beating Pete Sampras’ record.
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