Nick Kyrgios has called Novak Djokovic a "strange cat" as their feud continued on the opening day of the Australian Open. Djokovic had said on Sunday that he had no respect for Kyrgios off the court after the Australian had been critical of the world No 1's actions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Kyrgios spoke out against the ill-fated exhibition event that Djokovic organised in the summer which observed no social distancing and saw a number of the players contract Covid-19 after partying at a nightclub and again spoke out against the Serbian for making a list of requests for players who were stuck in quarantine.
Both men got their Australian Open campaigns off to a winning start as Djokovic beat Jeremy Chardy in straight sets and Kyrgios got the better of Frederico Ferreira Silva. And Kyrgios continued the war of words in his post-match press conference.
“It’s a strange one for me, because, you know, I read his comments, he said he doesn’t respect me off the court,” he said. “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. And when we’ve played matches I think I’ve actually been pretty good towards him.
“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 why he would say he doesn’t respect me off the court. I actually do a lot off the court.
“But 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.”
Djokovic was offered the chance of another reply after his 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 win over Jeremy Chardy but chose not to respond. He said: “You can read [what he said], but I’m not going to answer to anything.”
Kyrgios’s 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win was largely routine for Australia’s combustible star and, in many ways, his return to the Grand Slam stage for the first time since Covid-19 began was a roaring success. That niggling knee showed no signs of buckling, his propensity for frustration did not betray him, and the 119 minutes came complete with an underarm serve, a half-volley ‘tweener’ and a demand to eject somebody’s girlfriend from his box.
Ferreira Silva, to his credit, did ensure his higher-ranked opponent was made to work for his victory. At 25, he has just qualified for his first major. Having now arrived, he was clearly not keen to go away.
Until now this pair had not encountered each other on the professional tour, but they had faced each other at junior level. Ferreira Silva, for his part, has been a strong competitor at a lower level, particularly on hard court, and has a junior US Open doubles title.
Here he was capable at the net, even more proficient at a deadly wide serve. What he lacked was the height and power of his opponent. Every line in the service box felt the sharp friction of Kyrgios’s 14 aces and many more first serves. The same was the case for a spot somewhere deeper after Kyrgios, up 4-2 in the second set, unleashed a forehand to part the seas, in the air over the ball, legs like scissors. Ferreira Silva won that game, but he did not win the set, and Kyrgios claimed his next service game in 46 seconds, to love, via three aces and a backhand winner.
The third stanza was simply taking care of business and rivals, notably his French second-round opponent Ugo Humbert, will watch closely his progress throughout a tournament in which he was narrowly beaten by Rafael Nadal in the fourth round last year and appears no less determined 12 months later.
“Honestly, it was pretty average,” Kyrgios said of his performance. “I haven’t played a Grand Slam match in over a year. I was very nervous walking out here – he is a tricky player, he is obviously feeling confident. I played juniors with him, looks like he is blooming into a good player. He is going to do some great things but I’m just happy I got through, obviously.”
On a perfect first night, on his favourite court in the world. – Guardian
MEN'S DAY ONE REULTS
First round: (1) Novak Djokovic (Ser) bt Jeremy Chardy (Fra) 6-3 6-1 6-2, Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Stefano Travaglia (Ita) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-2, Reilly Opelka (USA) bt Yen-Hsun Lu (Tpe) 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-3, (27) Taylor Harry Fritz (USA) bt Albert Ramos-Vinolas (Esp) 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-2 7-6 (8-6), (17) Stan Wawrinka (Swi) bt Pedro Sousa (Por) 6-3 6-2 6-4, Marton Fucsovics (Hun) bt Marc Polmans (Aus) 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 6-3, Corentin Moutet (Fra) bt John Millman (Aus) 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 3-6 6-2 6-3, (14) Milos Raonic (Can) bt Federico Coria (Arg) 6-3 6-3 6-2, Emil Ruusuvuori (Fin) bt (10) Gael Monfils (Fra) 3-6 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3, Pedro Martinez Portero (Esp) bt Yoshihito Nishioka (Jpn) 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 6-1 6-1, Alexander Bublik (Kaz) bt Aljaz Bedene (Slo) 6-4 7-5 5-7 6-4, (23) Dusan Lajovic (Ser) bt Sergiy Stakhovsky (Ukr) 5-7 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-4, (32) Adrian Mannarino (Fra) bt Dennis Novak (Aut) 6-2 6-4 7-6 (7-2), Miomir Kecmanovic (Ser) bt Kamil Majchrzak (Pol) 6-2 6-4 6-3, Maxime Cressy (USA) bt Taro Daniel (Jpn) 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4, (6) Alexander Zverev (Ger) bt Marcos Giron (USA) 6-7 (8-10) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-2, (3) Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-3, Dominik Koepfer (Ger) bt Hugo Dellien (Bol) 7-5 6-2 6-4, Nick Kyrgios (Aus) bt Frederico Ferreira Silva (Por) 6-4 6-4 6-4, (29) Ugo Humbert (Fra) bt Yasutaka Uchiyama (Jpn) 6-3 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-3, (18) Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt Marin Cilic (Cro) 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7-5), Alex Bolt (Aus) bt Norbert Gombos (Svk) 6-2 6-2 4-6 6-3, Jiri Vesely (Cze) bt Kimmer Coppejans (Bel) 6-4 3-6 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-3, (15) Pablo Carreno-Busta (Esp) bt Kei Nishikori (Jpn) 7-5 7-6 (7-4) 6-2, (11) Denis Shapovalov (Can) bt Jannik Sinner (Ita) 3-6 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4, Bernard Tomic (Aus) bt Yuichi Sugita (Jpn) 3-6 6-1 4-1 ret, James Duckworth (Aus) bt Damir Dzumhur (Bih) 6-3 6-2 6-4, (20) Felix Auger-Aliassime (Can) bt Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (Ger) 6-2 6-4 6-2, Egor Gerasimov (Blr) bt (25) Benoit Paire (Fra) 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5, Aslan Karatsev (Rus) bt Gianluca Mager (Ita) 6-3 6-3 6-4, Alexandre Muller (Fra) bt Juan Ignacio Londero (Arg) 4-6 6-3 6-0 6-3, (8) Diego Sebastian Schwartzman (Arg) bt Elias Ymer (Swe) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 2-6 6-2.