By Sudipto Ganguly
LONDON (Reuters) – Nick Kyrgios, once considered a fierce critic of Novak Djokovic, emerged as an unlikely ally during the Serbian’s chaotic deportation from Melbourne at the start of 2022 and their current “bromance” feels “real weird” for the Australian.
The 27-year-old described Djokovic’s ill-fated Adria Tour amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as “boneheaded” and called him a “tool” last year when the tennis great wrote to Australian Open organisers asking for the easing of quarantine conditions.
But in January Kyrgios said he was embarrassed by the treatment of Djokovic, who was detained by local authorities, released and then detained again before being deported ahead of the Australian Open.
“We definitely have a bit of a bromance now, which is weird,” Kyrgios said on Friday. “I think everyone knows there was no love lost for a while there.
“I felt like I was almost the only kind of player and someone to stand up for him with all that kind of drama at the Australian Open.
“I feel like that’s where respect is kind of earned. Not on the tennis court, but I feel like when a real life crisis is happening and someone stands up for you…
“We actually message each other on DMs (direct messages) in Instagram now and stuff. It’s real weird. Actually, earlier in the week, he was like, ‘Hopefully I’ll see you Sunday’.”
Kyrgios will play in his maiden Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon’s Centre Court on Sunday, where he will meet either six-time champion and top seed Djokovic or Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
He will be the first Australian to play a men’s singles final on the manicured lawns at the All England Club since Mark Philippoussis in 2003.
Not since the days of John McEnroe’s tantrums has a player polarised opinion as much as Kyrgios and there is always a buzz surrounding the Australian, whether it be on court or at his media conferences.
Fellow Australian Pat Cash, a former Wimbledon champion, earlier this week told the BBC that Kyrgios’ behaviour had damaged the sport’s standing following his win over Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in a toxic third-round clash.
Asked what it would mean to join a long line of Australian greats in winning the Wimbledon title, the temperamental 27-year-old unloaded.
“I mean, look, as for the greats of Australian tennis, they haven’t always been the nicest to me personally. They haven’t always been supportive,” Kyrgios said.
“They haven’t been supportive these two weeks. So it’s hard for me to kind of read things that they say about me.
“It’s pretty sad because I don’t get any support from… like the past greats. It’s weird they just have like a sick obsession with tearing me down for some reason.
“I just don’t know whether they don’t like me or they’re, like, afraid. I don’t know what it is. But it sucks, because if it was roles reversed, if I saw (Alex) de Minaur in a final, or if I saw Jordan Thompson or Thanasi (Kokkinakis), I’d be pumped. I’d be stoked. I’d be having a pint watching, going nuts.”
Kyrgios however picked out fellow Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who won the 2002 Wimbledon title, for special praise and thanked him for his support over the years.
“He’s our Davis Cup captain, and he kind of knows that I kind of do my own thing. I’m definitely the outcast of the Australian players,” Kyrgios said.
“He knows to kind of keep his distance and just let me do me. He just sends me a message here or there, ‘Keep going’. That’s literally it. Just, ‘Well done. Keep going’.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ken Ferris)