'Leave the tweeners to me, bro': Trash talk starts as Kyrgios, Djoker ...
It’s the warm-up match that’s got everyone talking ahead of next week’s Australian Open as Nick Kyrgios meets 21-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic on Friday night.
The exhibition match between last year’s Wimbledon finalists is Djokovic’s first back at Melbourne Park since his infamous deportation over his controversial Covid vaccine stance.
And both players brought their trash talk A-game for Friday night’s clash.
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The Serbian superstar made light work of his first service game before Kyrgios - in his first singles match in 98 days - could have an impact.
His first point on his serve was an ace – leaving Djokovic stunned after the ball clipped the net and dropped in.
Clearly Djokovic forgot the Fast Four rules where let serves are still in play.
“Novak forget and Nick - whose tennis IQ is very high - didn’t forget,” commentator Wally Masur said.
Djokovic laughed as he said he “didn’t get my memo” before the match as he sat down for his first break.
Djokovic admitted he was “emotional” heading back out onto Rod Laver Arena as both players were met with massive applause.
He laughed as he dismissed questions about Kyrgios’ winning 2-1 head to head count between the pair.
“I feel a bit emotional right now to be honest,” he said. “I’m sure we’re going to have lots of fun.
“This is the match that I care about only right now with Nick (laughs). He’s in my thoughts, he’s in my prayers. It’s going to be two-all after tonight (head to head).”
Kyrgios agreed he was “nervous” returning to Melbourne as he remained determined for Wimbledon “payback”.
“Not going to lie, nervous standing back out here,” he said.
“It’s a very special moment for me.
“I need some payback for Wimbledon – I haven’t slept since!”
Friday night’s Rod Laver Arena clash remarkably sold out in just 58 minutes as fans flock to get their first look at Kyrgios this summer, after he controversially withdrew from warm up events in recent weeks citing an ankle injury.
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But the world number 22 – Australia’s top ranked player – is revelling in the theatrics of the blockbuster event, even taking a dig at his critics in the lead up to Friday’s match with a cheeky tweet.
“Wow Nick Kyrgios is bad for the sport! Wow what a disgrace, a national embarrassment! How dare he sell out another stadium, the arrogance,” a sarcastic Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
It is set to be a big showdown days out for the grand slam’s start, given the rivalry-now-bromance between Kyrgios and Djokovic.
“I wasn’t his favourite guy … for many years,” Djokovic said last week.
“He was one of the very few who stood by me last year. And I respect that and appreciate that.
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“In those moments you can actually see who supports you, who is truly by your side.”
While there’s plenty of support for the two tennis drawcards, Aussie tennis great Pat Cash has voiced his concerns over the exhibition match labelling it “hard to believe” and “quite extraordinary”.
“It’s hard to believe that Tennis Australia will put on an event on the centre court for Nick and Djokovic,” he said on SEN.
“In what country, in what grand slam would you (allow it)? Would you have Wimbledon pulling out their centre court or court one because Andy Murray needed a practice match?
“It’s hard to believe. They certainly wouldn’t do it at the French Open. It wouldn’t happen.
“They’ve bent over backwards to help Nick to get some matches and do this.”
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The criticism comes as Kyrgios takes to the court for the first time since pre-Christmas as injury forced his withdrawl from both the United Cup and Adelaide International.
Djokovic also enters the exhibition match under an injury cloud after battling a hamstring complaint on his way to the Adelaide International title and then appearing to injure his knee in a practice session in Melbourne.
But both stars say they are ready to battle it out ahead of the opening grand slam of the year.