Novak Djokovic believes Nick Kyrgios’s talent is good for tennis but the world No 1 has no respect for how the outspoken Australian carries himself off the court.
Kyrgios has had a long-running battle with the star Serbian, recently labelling the eight-time Australian Open champion a “tool” for writing a list of player demands during hotel quarantine. The big-hitting Kyrgios also slammed Djokovic as “bone-headed” for hosting an infamous exhibition tournament last June.
Djokovic’s ill-fated charity event, the Adria Tour, ended with Djokovic and other high-profile players testing positive for Covid-19.
When asked on Sunday about Kyrgios’s criticism, Djokovic praised the 25-year-old’s tennis ability but dismissed him as a person.
“I think he’s good for the sport,” Djokovic told reporters. “He’s someone that is different and goes about his tennis [and] his off-court things in his own authentic way. I have respect for him.
“I have respect for everyone else really because everyone has a right and freedom to choose how they want to express themselves and what they want to do.
“My respect goes to him for the tennis he’s playing. I think he’s a very talented guy, he’s got a big game and he’s proven that he has a quality to beat any player in the world.
“Off the court I don’t have much respect for him, to be honest. That’s where I’ll close it. I don’t really have any further comments for him and his own comments for me or anything else he’s trying to do.”
World No 47 Kyrgios said last month he feels it is important to hold fellow tennis professionals to account when they act out.
A die-hard basketball fan, Kyrgios compared Djokovic’s influence on others to that of NBA superstar LeBron James. The powerful right-hander begins his Australian Open campaign against Portuguese qualifier Frederico Ferreira Silva on Monday.