Nick Kyrgios' classy act for Novak Djokovic ahead of Australian Open return

Nick Kyrgios says Australian tennis fans will be 'lucky' to witness Novak Djokovic return to Melbourne for the Australian Open. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Nick Kyrgios says Australian tennis fans will be 'lucky' to witness Novak Djokovic return to Melbourne for the Australian Open. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Antagonists no longer - Nick Kyrgios has insisted Australian tennis fans will be 'lucky' to witness on again, off again frenemy Novak Djokovic's return to the country next year. The Serbian former World No.1 had his three-year visa ban overturned by the federal government earlier this year, paving the way for his return to the Australian Open.

Kyrgios bit back at the suggestion he and Djokovic had butted heads over the years, arguing what had been portrayed in the media was not an accurate reflection of their relationship. The Australian star was an unexpected and vocal supporter of Djokovic when he was apprehended by border officials upon arrival in Melbourne in January 2022, after it was determined his exemption from getting the COVID-19 vaccine was invalid.

ICON: Ash Barty makes Aussie sporting history with prestigious Don Award

'TOO MUCH': Tennis world in uproar over 'ridiculous' announcement

Australia has since dropped the requirement for overseas visitors to be vaccinated, allowing Djokovic to return to the grand slam where he is a nine-times winner. Kyrgios, who was critical of Djokovic's attempts to hold a tournament in the early months of the pandemic in 2020, said the 35-year-old would be the favourite to claim another crown.

"Look, he's the best player in the world in my opinion," said Kyrgios of the man who'll end the year as the no.5. "I'm glad we're welcoming him back to come in and show what a great tennis player he is.

"I feel like no tournament is a full-strength tournament without Novak Djokovic in it. Novak, (the retired Roger) Federer and (Australian and French champion Rafael) Nadal, they were always the three-headed monster everybody wanted to beat."

As for the occasional theatrics between the pair that have come to define their relationship to one another, Kyrgios insisted any past tension had been overblown. The pair even sparked something of a 'bromance' after facing off in the 2022 Wimbledon final.

"It's not really a new relationship - but the media tends to set the tone and they kinda created a narrative we didn't really like each other," Kyrgios said. "But Novak knows I was the only person to really stand up for him when a real-life issue occurred.

"I feel like the respect, that when someone does that for you, when they talk about you and stand up for you in front of a whole nation, that's when respect's gained, not on how you behave on a tennis court towards each other."

Nick Kyrgios expects old faces to stay on top in 2023

Asked by reporters at the exhibition Diriyah Tennis Cup event in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Thursday about whether there might be a new men's grand slam singles champ in 2023, Kyrgios responded: "I'm gonna say 'no'.

"Well, Rafa will win the French Open, Djokovic will probably win Wimbledon - unless I stop him - so I don't know ... Djokovic is so dominant that unless someone really elevates their level at the Australian Open or US Open, I can't see him losing.

"(Daniil) Medvedev could maybe beat him. Look I'd love to win one - but, realistically, he's so dominant."

Nick Kyrgios says his best chance of a grand slam victory in 2023 will come at Wimbledon. (Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images for MatchMaker)
Nick Kyrgios says his best chance of a grand slam victory in 2023 will come at Wimbledon. (Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images for MatchMaker)

Kyrgios was beaten in the first round in Riyadh in two super-tiebreak 'sets' - 10-6 10-6 - by Britain's Cameron Norrie, but hardly seemed too worried with a six-figure payday coming his way whatever his results.

His early exit meant he would be playing more doubles instead over the three-day event. "Obviously, it wasn't the result I wanted but all credit to Cam, he just played solid and I made a few too many errors - and in the tie-break format, it's always hard," he shrugged.

"I'm not too mad about it. I feel like I've given the fans a little bit of Nick Kyrgios, which is okay, but hopefully the doubles will go a bit better."

With AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.