Nick Kyrgios says he was left heartbroken when tennis legend and longtime rival Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Australian Open.
The 2022 champion flew back to Spain earlier this month after sustaining a hip injury that has thrown his career into doubt.
Nadal underwent hip surgery in June and hadn’t played since last year’s Australian Open until returning at the season-opening Brisbane International, where his body failed him again.
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Kyrgios, who himself is also out of the first grand slam of the season with injury for a second consecutive year, said it killed him to see Nadal deliver the bad news again.
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“I know how hard he would have worked in the last year getting healthy,” Kyrgios said.
“He wants to just play grand slams. That’s always been my fear, going out of the sport not on your terms where your body starts to tell you you’re maybe past it.
“And Rafa is someone who is so important to the sport and it just takes time.
“It broke my heart seeing that.”
Nick Kyrgios was shattered to see Rafael Nadal pull out of the Australian Open. Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Kyrgios is battling a wrist injury that has seen him sidelined since last year, before which he suffered a knee injury that required surgery.
“I’ve been in the gym every day and when you’re injured people think you don’t do anything,” he said of his recovery from injury.
“I’m really excited and doing plenty of things off court — the positive is I can have a drink now and enjoy places like the QT Rooftop.”
But while he can’t play in this year’s AO, Kyrgios will dip his toe into tennis commentary.
The injured Aussie will join European broadcaster Eurosport and American channel ESPN to go into lounge rooms across the globe when the first major tournament of the year starts on January 14.
It will be Kyrgios’s second foray into the commentary box in the past three months, having appeared on screens during the ATP Finals last November, where he impressed with his rare insight into the modern game and its current stars.
The 28-year-old former world No.13 has not played a competitive match on tour in 12 months now, having suited up just once for the entire 2023 calendar year.
Interestingly, he has been added to a Eurosport commentary team that also includes German tennis legend Boris Becker, with whom Kyrgios has had a running public feud for years.
Most recently, the pair had a heated back-and-forth on social media where Kyrgios claimed Becker’s generation was substandard compared to the current one that has included Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
In a recent interview with The Athletic, the injured Aussie tennis star made the observation that the game, in his opinion, has evolved so far from generations past that icons of the game from yesteryear, even in their prime, would stand no chance against the champions of today.
A disappointed Nick Kyrgios will not take part in 2024’s Australian Open as a player, but will dip his toe into commentary. Credit: AAP
“The game was so slow back then,” Kyrgios told the American publication late last year.
“I’ve watched Boris Becker and I’m not saying they weren’t good in their time, but to say that they would be just as good (as modern players) now, it’s absurd.
“A big serve back then was like 197 to 200km/h. People like me, we serve 220 consistently, to corners. It’s a whole different ball game.
“I’m not saying they wouldn’t have found their way. But serve and volley (for instance), to do it all the time now, you need to be serving 220, because if you serve anything less than 220, bro, Djokovic eats you alive. He eats you alive.
“Bro, Lleyton Hewitt destroyed Sampras one year at the US Open. That was the first prototype of someone who could return serve. He made Sampras look like s***.
“And what would Djokovic do to someone like Sampras? It would be a clean-up. If Hewitt was doing it, Djokovic would destroy him. He would eat him alive.”
Nick Kyrgios has hit out at tennis champion Boris Becker. Credit: AP
The outspoken Aussie is never afraid to give his honest and often brutal opinions, and didn’t back down when, in this case, he was challenged by Becker himself.
Responding to the quotes in The Athletic, Becker questioned the 2022 Australian Open men’s doubles champion’s credibility to make them.
“Nick makes a lot of noise about tennis lately!?!” Becker wrote.
“Why does he speak about a sport he apparently hates … Fact-check: Nick has never won a major championship as a player or coach (yes doubles, one) so where is any credibility coming from?
“Trying to compare generations … Laver v Federer, Borg v Nadal, Sampras v Djokovic!?! I am not even gonna mention McEnroe, Conners, Lendl, Agassi, Courier, Edberg, Wilander, Kuerten, Bruguer, Rafter, Hewitt and many more … Speak to your @OnlyFans about many things but tennis.”
Boris Becker was sentenced to prison in April 2022 and released eight months later. Credit: AP
The OnlyFans reference was a dig at Kyrgios’s recent unveiling as an ambassador for the subscription-based content platform, for which he is now a creator, and on which he exclusively revealed the news that he was pulling out of next year’s Australian Open.
Wasting no time to return serve, Kyrgios laughed off Becker’s retort in the comments, taking a dig at his recent imprisonment.
Becker, the two-time Australian Open champion, was sentenced to 30 months in prison in April 2022 for illicitly transferring large amounts of money and hiding assets after he was declared bankrupt.
He was released later that year after serving eight months of the sentence.
“Hahahaha this bloke speaking about credibility … Last I checked you were the one hiding assets, no?” Kyrgios said.
“Also I mean I’ve beaten, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray so I feel like I have a little credibility … But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Novak would wipe the floor against you in your prime?
“Like it’s not an attack. It’s just facts.
“Basically 99 per cent of the tennis tour doesn’t have credibility then? Potato. What about your boy Zverev? No credibility? He hasn’t even won a doubles grand slam?
“And I appreciate the OnlyFans shoutout!!!! Got the Boris Becker speaking about the brand!!!! Always knew you kept up with my business collaborations.”
It’s not the first time Kyrgios and Becker have clashed publicly, the two having had a long-running feud over a number of sore points.
Kyrgios didn’t stop at Becker either, biting back at other fans who accused him of having “wasted” his career without leaving a mark on the game.
Kyrgios biting back. Credit: XContinued. Credit: XContinued. Credit: X