Wimbledon - Final - From "Crétin" to "Bromance": Kyrgios - Djokovic, a funny story

Wimbledon – Final – From “Crétin” to “Bromance”: Kyrgios – Djokovic, a funny story

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Saturday afternoon, at Aorangi Park. Novak Djokovic is training on a court surrounded by his entire clan when Nick Kyrgios walks down the aisle. A brief exchange ensues. “It took you five years to say a nice thing about me“, launches the Serb to the one who will be his challenger in the Wimbledon final on Sunday on the Center Court. The whole thing is said in the form of a joke. “But I stood up for you when it mattered“, replies the Australian. “You did, and I appreciate it.” The exchange alone sums up the confusion of feelings between the two men.

A little later in the day, they did it again, on their social networks.

– Kyrgios: “Are we friends now?
– Djokovic: “If you invite me for a drink or dinner, I accept. PS: The winner pays tomorrow.”
– Kyrgios: “Deal. Let’s go clubbing and go wild.”

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Tennistically, this duel is intriguing. Humanly too. Here, in two different registers, are two of the most controversial characters on the circuit, whose relationship has been tumultuous to say the least before softening dramatically in recent months. After years of diatribe, Kyrgios and Djokovic now compete in kindness. Or how to go from total incompatibility to almost “bromance”.

This detestation was largely one-sided. Nick Kyrgios has always enjoyed spilling his gall. Because he was not ashamed to say what he was not ashamed to think, the Australian chained spades, sometimes even insults. With him, it comes out the way it does. Rough formwork. Djokovic is far from having been the only target of the Canberra player. Nadal, for example, had his dose of attacks. But never with the same recurrence or with the same violence.

For me he will never be the ‘GOAT’

In the media, at a press conference, or via social networks, the troublemaker from the antipodes has never missed an opportunity to light up his favorite target. He even seemed to make a small “fixette” on Djokovic. Part of the reason he felt empowered not to go out of his way was because Kyrgios won their only two duels. It was at the end of winter 2017. Two victories without losing a single round, back to back, in Acapulco and Indian Wells.

Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells in 2017.

Credit: Getty Images

However, it is difficult to see a major trend in this. The Serb was going through the most delicate period of his career. Shortly after, he was also going to have an operation on his elbow. “He is very aggressive, tries his luck on first and second balls. It’s his style. He plays a certain way, talks and behaves on the court a certain way. Apparently it works…” had commented “Nole”, a little frustrated, after his second defeat, in Indian Wells.

But Kyrgios played on that. “Sorry, but for me he will never be the ‘GOAT’he said for the umpteenth time in early 2021. It doesn’t matter how many Grand Slams he wins, but I could never consider him the greatest, just because I played him twice and beat him twice. If you can’t even beat me, you can’t be the ‘GOAT’. ” With him, you never really know where the first or the second degree is. One thing is certain, he did not carry Djokovic in his heart.

The highest point of the Adria Tour

More than the champion, whose accomplishments he obviously respects, it is the personality of the “Djoker” that Nick Kyrgios abhorred. His way of being, of doing. His celebrations, for example, after each of his victories, with his salute to the various stands. “She’s really freaking her celebration, right?, he had questioned one day. Next time I beat him, I’ll do the same to see. That would be hilarious, right?““Then this one, which perhaps got to the bottom of the problem he had with Djokovic:”He has a sickly obsession with the need to be loved. He wants to be Roger. He wants to be loved so much that I can’t stand it. It becomes embarrassing. He always says what he thinks he should say, he never gives his opinion“.

The climax was undoubtedly reached in the spring of 2020, when the sport was at a standstill at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In May, Novak Djokovic organizes an exhibition in Belgrade, the Adria Tour. Stands filled to the brim, absence of masks and barrier gestures and this nocturnal fiesta with Alexander Zverev and a few others. On Twitter, Kyrgios is loose. “Organizing this exhibition was a stupid decision. My prayers to all infected players. But it is no longer worth mentioning my actions as irresponsible acts. The Adria Tour surpasses everything.” He will even go so far as to call the then world number one “dumbass“, when he will demand an easing of the quarantine conditions for the players before the Australian Open.

Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic

Credit: Getty Images

Novak Djokovic, he first expressed his incomprehension in the face of this permanent media ball trap. “I don’t know why Kyrgios says all these things, he admitted in 2019. If he wants attention, or if he has other motivations. He can say whatever he wants, that’s fine with me.” He has almost always resisted the temptation of tit for tat, as if he felt that this fight would be unequal for him. But arriving at the Australian Open in 2021, shortly after the “moron”, Djokovic had replied. Briefly but firmly:Off the court, I don’t have much respect for him to be honest. And I will stop there. I have no further comments to make.”

In the process, Kyrgios had presented himself in turn at a press conference. Warned of the development of his favorite punching bag, he had obviously relished the moment. “let’s go“, he began with a smile, recalling that, outside the court, he respected health rules rather than organizing a competition, and that he raised funds in Australia.Doesn’t deserve respect, do you think?” he asked. “It’s a funny animal, Novak, Kyrgios had continued. Huge tennis player, but unfortunately someone who parties shirtless in the midst of a global pandemic, I don’t know if there’s anything to be learned from this man. For me it’s hard to do worse.”

In the end, he’s human

However, a year later, in the same place, when Novak Djokovic found himself stranded at the airport and in detention on his arrival in Melbourne for lack of vaccination, no one put himself forward more than Nick Kyrgios to endorse the Serbian lawyer’s dress. It was no longer him that Kyrgios was attacking, but the media and the Australian authorities: “I absolutely believe that we must act against the virus, I have also been vaccinated to protect others and in particular the health of my mother. But we are treating Novak’s situation badly, really badly. All these memes and these headlines…He’s one of our greatest champions, but at the end of the day he’s human. Do better.”

Two days before the start of the tournament, while Djokovic’s fate remained uncertain (he would finally be expelled for good), the Australian had even given emphasis. “Honestly, I want him to fucking win the tournamentKyrgios had claimed. It would be huge. I want to walk in Melbourne Park with my ‘Idemo’ T-shirt (come on, in Serbian). I want to walk around with a Novak mask on my face.

Why such a dramatic turnaround? Perhaps because Kyrgios simply felt that the treatment of the Belgrade champion was not fair. Or that the attitude of his own country was turning to relentlessness. Shooting an ambulance is not his thing. Attacking Djokovic interested him more when it came to attacking a powerful one.

A few Serbian supporters of Novak Djokovic at a rally in Melbourne earlier this year. They won’t win.

Credit: AFP

Bromance or no Bromance?

While the two men will face each other for the first time in five and a half years, on the most prestigious stage in the tennis world with the title at stake at Wimbledon, it is therefore the roses and not the knives that are out. “We’re clearly going through some sort of ‘bromance’ now, which is kind of weird“, said Kyrgios on Friday. We DM on Instagram, stuff like that. Yes, it’s really strange. The other day he texted me ‘I really hope to see you on Sunday’.”

The Australian’s confidences rather amused Djokovic, not quite ready to go as far as him. “I’m not sure I’d talk about ‘bromance’ again“, smiled the triple title holder (whatever it was before the double episode of this Saturday). But on the merits, he agrees: “We have a much better relationship than before. Even though he said some unpleasant things about me, when it was really difficult for me in Australia, he was one of the few players to come forward publicly, to support me. I’m really grateful to him. So I respect him a lot for that.”

Of his future opponent, Djokovic also says he appreciates the side “authentic“.”We can discuss sometimes what he says or what he does on the court, but he is always himself and I like that. So, ‘bromance’, maybe not quite. But the global warming between the two players is well and truly recorded. Two questions remain: will Kyrgios come to the court with a Novak mask on Sunday? And who will foot the bill?

Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic

Credit: Getty Images

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