Nick Kyrgios reacts during his Australian Open match against Frederico Ferreira in Melbourne on Monday. Associated Press
Nick Kyrgios has hit back at criticism from Novak Djokovic, describing the world number one as ‘a very strange cat’ after the Serb said he had little respect for the Australian off court.
Kyrgios has waged a running battle with Djokovic, sparked by the Serb’s ill-fated Adria Tour exhibition series last year as the coronavirus pandemic raged.
Djokovic said in Melbourne over the weekend he had mixed views on Kyrgios, who recently called him a ‘tool’, respecting his tennis abilities but not his off-court antics.
“It’s a strange one for me. I read his comments -- he said he doesn’t respect me off the court,” said Kyrgios, who has also previously blasted the 17-time Grand Slam winner as having ‘an obsession with wanting to be liked’.
“It actually would make complete sense to me if he was like, ‘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’ve done in the past.
“I’m not quite sure how you can’t respect me off the court,” he added.
“I feel like I’ve gone about things extremely well, especially during the pandemic.”
Kyrgios said during his time away from the game last year, he delivered food to people in need and was ultra careful to abide by Covid-19 regulations, opting not to travel for the US and French Opens.
“I actually do a lot off the court,” he said.
“But he’s a very strange cat, Novak is. A heck of a tennis player, but unfortunately someone who’s partying with his shirt off during a global pandemic, I don’t know if I can take any slack from that man.”
Djokovic’s Adria Tour was organised to fill the gap in the virus-hit tennis calendar last year, but was widely criticised for a lack of mask-wearing and social-distancing.
The Serb was among several players seen partying at a packed Belgrade night club despite the threat from the virus.
carefree attitude: A relaxed Coco Gauff said on Tuesday a carefree attitude had unlocked her precocious talent after the teenage sensation booked a second round Australian Open showdown with world number five Elina Svitolina.
The 16-year-old showed the form that fuelled her dazzling run last year at Melbourne Park during a crushing 6-3, 6-2 victory over Swiss Jil Teichmann in 56 minutes.
It was a commanding performance from the strong-serving American, who needed almost three hours to beat 58th-ranked Teichmann last week at the warm-up Gippsland Trophy.
“I put way less pressure on myself than I did last week and you can kind of see how the match played that I kind of played a little bit more free than last week,” she said.
“I learned a lot from the summer series here, and I’m happy to take what I learned into this week.”
The world number 48 was one of the best stories in Melbourne last year, where she upset reigning champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets in the third round.
Gauff quickly emerged as a fan favourite and became a vocal leader in the movement for racial justice in United States, where a speech she delivered in Florida went viral on social media.
Touted as the heir apparent to 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, her heady rise was tempered with early exits at the US Open and French Open last year.
Gauff said she had learned to cope with the high expectations.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” she said. “You want to do as well or even better than the year before, but I try not to think about it and just take it one match at a time.”
She faces a difficult task to match last year’s run, having to play consistent top-10 performer Svitolina on Thursday.
“She’s a great player and I know it’s going to be a tough match, but I’m just going to embrace the opportunity and try to play well under the pressure,” Gauff said.