Novak Djokovic has once again made his mark in the record books by reaching a record 32nd major final following his victory over local favorite Cameron Norrie in the semi-finals of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships.
The 20-time Grand Slam singles champion is currently on a 27-match Wimbledon winning streak and will face Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final.
Kyrgios reached the first Slam final of his career after Rafael Nadal pulled out of their semi-final clash, citing an abdominal injury he played with in his quarter-final clash against Taylor Fritz.
The 27-year-old became the first Wimbledon player and only the third Open Era player after Jim Courier and Steffi Graf to advance to a Slam final after receiving a semi-final victory.
Djokovic, who is currently a three-time reigning Wimbledon champion, has never won a single set against Kyrgios in their previous two encounters. They first met at the 2017 Acapulco Open, where the Australian won 7-6(9) 7-5. The same year, they faced off in Indian Wells where the Aussie prevailed 6-4 7-6(3) in a round of 16 clash.
Apart from the fact that Kyrgios never lost a set against Djokovic, the two men exchanged a few words off the court, which were direct and at times unceremonious.
Here is a history of what players have said to each other over the years.
2019 – Kyrgios Point Blank Podcast
In the ‘No Challenges Remaining’ podcast interview, Nick Kyrgios gave his unfiltered take on Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. While calling Nadal ‘super salty’, the Aussie had the following to say about Djokovic:
“I just feel like he [Djokovic] has a sickly obsession, wanting to be loved. He just wants to be like Roger [Federer]. He just wants to be loved so much that I can’t stand it. All that celebratory stuff (shoving kisses to the crowd) that he does after games, it’s so goofy. It’s very goofy.
Djokovic responded to those comments saying he was ‘not losing sleep’ over Kyrgios’ remarks.
In an interview with SportsKlub the same year, the two-time Career Slam champion also said:
“What can I say to Nick Kyrgios. I don’t think he’s really a bad guy. I don’t know why he says all these things, if he wants attention or if a motive is different.”
The 2019 Wimbledon final was contested between Djokovic and Roger Federer. On the morning of the final, Kyrgios showed his support for the Swiss on social media.
2020 – Djokovic’s Adria Tour
In May 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak, Kyrgios and Andy Murray took to Instagram for a live session, when the former said the Briton was a better player than Djokovic.
“I think you’re better than Djokovic. Djokovic was playing dodge ball on my serve and you slapped him for a winner. He was trying to dodge it, you were on it like a light,” Kyrgios said.
In June/July of that year, Djokovic hosted an exhibition tennis tour when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak. In addition to organizing a gathering of people in large groups, the players also partied and danced together.
“Prayer to all players who have contracted COVID-19. Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or categorized as ‘stupid’ – that takes the cake,” Kyrgios said.
In the process, Borna Coric, Grigor Dimitrov, Viktor Troicki, Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic himself and his wife Jelena Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19. Kyrgios described the Serbian’s decision to host the Adria Tour as ‘insane’.
Ahead of the 2020 US Open, Djokovic said the level of criticism after the Adria Tour was “like a witch hunt”.
“Whether it’s right or not, you will tell me, but I know the intentions were right and correct, and if I had the chance to do the Adria Tour again, I would.”
2021 – Heated Off-Pitch Exchanges
Ahead of the 2021 Australian Open, Djokovic has asked the Victorian government to ease quarantine restrictions.
Kyrgios responded via a tweet:
Reflecting on the Adria Tour in an interview with CNN, Kyrgios said:
“He’s one of the leaders in our sport. He’s technically our LeBron James in that he has to set an example for all tennis players. When he was doing some of the things he was doing during the global pandemic, it was just not the right time. I know everyone makes mistakes, some of us go off track sometimes and we have to hold each other accountable. We are colleagues at the end of the day we compete, we play in the same sport.”
“No one else really held him (Djokovic) responsible. Everyone digresses a bit but I think he just needs to take it out. I don’t do anything like that to get media attention : that’s the moral I grew up with and was just trying to do my part.”
In January 2021, in an interview with the Herald Sun, Kyrgios said that Djokovic was not the greatest player of all time.
“No matter how many major tournament wins, Novak will never be the best for me. I played against him twice, and if he can’t beat me, you’re not the greatest of them all the temperature.
During the Australian Open 2021, when asked to respond to all the remarks Kyrgios made about him, Djokovic said:
“Off the pitch, I don’t have much respect for [Kyrgios], to be honest. This is where I will close it. I really don’t have any other comments for him, his own comments for me, or anything else he’s trying to do.”
Kyrgios was quick to react.
“It’s strange to me, because, you know, I read his comments, he said he didn’t respect me off the pitch. I’m, like, that would actually make total sense to me if he was like, ‘Look, I don’t respect the guy on the pitch,’ because I get it if he disagrees with some of my on-pitch antics that I’ve done in the past . And when we played games, I think I’ve been pretty good to him,” Kyrgios said.
But I’m not sure how he can’t respect me off the pitch. I feel like I did it really well, especially during the pandemic that I was in – I mean, driving to deliver food to people during the pandemic who didn’t or couldn’t get the supplies. I was extremely careful about what I was doing. I didn’t want to transmit the virus to anyone.”
“But, yes, he’s a very strange cat, Novak is. One hell of a tennis player, but unfortunately someone who parties with his shirt on during a global pandemic, I don’t know if I can take the slightest slack on the part of this man. It’s too bad for me,” he added.
When asked by Serbian media if he would like to settle things with Kyrgios one-on-one, Djokovic said:
“I really don’t want to comment too much on that because that’s what he’s looking for: some kind of debate, attention, who knows, but I’m not going to give it to him because he doesn’t deserve it. That I don’t feel the need and I don’t think we should sit down and talk, I have absolutely no interest in the guy.
2022 – Healthier Relationships
Earlier this year, Djokovic was deported from Australia for failing to meet the country’s entry requirements for an unvaccinated traveler. However, Kyrgios was one of the few players who publicly supported the Serb.
Following his fourth round win over Tim van Rijthoven at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships, Djokovic was asked about his views on the Kyrgios-Tsitsipas feud that took place during their clash.
“With Kyrgios, you often see such situations on the pitch. It’s always fun, and on the other hand, maybe not so much for his opponent. The fact is that it’s him and someone there. like it or not he brings a lot of attention to tennis I see it’s good that he attracts a group of young people who follow him, like him and like him because he is different and plays like that – and I don’t think that’s bad for our sport. in some situations his comments on and off the pitch are questionable, but he’s genuine Kyrgios – and I respect that,” Djokovic said.
Ahead of their 2022 Wimbledon final, Kyrgios was asked about his relationship with the former world No.1 over the years.
“We definitely have a bit of a bromance now, which is weird. I think everyone knows there was no love lost for a while there. I felt like to be almost the only type of player and someone to defend him with all that kind of drama at the Australian Open,” Kyrgios said.
I feel like that’s where respect is earned. Not on the tennis court, but I feel like a real life crisis is happening and someone is standing up for you. We actually DM each other on Instagram now and stuff. It’s really weird. In fact, earlier in the week he said to me, ‘I hope we see each other on Sunday,’ he added.
The six-time Wimbledon champion’s response to Kyrgios’ positive words about their healthier off-court relationship:
“I don’t know if I can still call it a bromance, but we certainly have a better relationship than it probably was before January of this year. But when it was really tough for me in Australia, he was the one of the very few players who have come out publicly and been supportive and supportive of me. That’s something I really appreciate. So I respect him a lot for that.”