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Wimbledon 2022: 'Let's go to a nightclub and go nuts' – Kyrgios plans party with final rival Djokovic

By John Skilbeck

London, July 10: Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic crossed paths on the practice courts and began making plans to party after Sunday's Wimbledon final, on an unconventional day of build-up to the trophy match.

The pair were once grudge rivals, with Kyrgios ripping into Djokovic on the 'No Challenges Remaining' podcast in 2019, saying the Serbian had "a sick obsession" with wanting to be popular, in the way Roger Federer has enjoyed the love of tennis crowds.

More recently, though, Kyrgios sympathised with Djokovic's plight in January when the Serbian was detained and ultimately deported from Australia in a row over his vaccination status.

That served to stem the flow of bad blood, and Kyrgios has gone as far as to suggest there is a budding "bromance" between the pair.

Djokovic is not quite so sure about that, but the needle that once existed is unlikely to be a factor on Sunday, at least initially. Given the volatility both men may bring onto the court, the rapport could be seriously tested as the match goes on.

Even Djokovic has forecast "fireworks", but that does not necessarily mean ill-feeling.

On Centre Court, Djokovic will be aiming for his seventh Wimbledon title, which would see him tie Pete Sampras as the second most prolific winner of the men's singles in the Open Era, behind Federer's haul of eight.

On Saturday, Serbian journalist Sasa Ozmo quoted a conversation between the pair at Wimbledon's Aorangi practice courts, where Djokovic is said to have told Kyrgios: "It took you five years to say something nice about me, haha."

According to Ozmo, who reports for Sport Klub, Kyrgios replied: "But I defended you when it mattered."

Djokovic then reportedly said: "You did, I appreciate that."

The conversation continued on social media, with Kyrgios writing on Instagram: "We friends now?"

Djokovic quipped in reply: "If you are inviting me for a drink or dinner, I accept. P.S. Winner of tomorrow pays."

Kyrgios was not satisfied with that level of celebration, proposing instead: "Let's go to a nightclub and go nuts."

Djokovic and Kyrgios have played twice before, and Kyrgios won both times without dropping a set. They came in 2017 though, at Acapulco and Indian Wells, when Djokovic was at a relatively low ebb.

Now the 35-year-old from Belgrade is targeting a title that would take him to a career haul of 21 grand slam titles, one behind men's all-time leader Rafael Nadal.

It will be a 32nd grand slam final for Djokovic, a men's record, and he is chasing a fourth consecutive Wimbledon title, and a seventh in all. His lone defeat in a Wimbledon final came in 2013 when Andy Murray beat him in straight sets.

In contrast, Kyrgios will be contesting his first grand slam singles final. He won the doubles with Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open in January, but this is a massive step up, and he could be coming in slightly cold, after his semi-final against Nadal was cancelled due to the Spaniard's injury withdrawal.

The last Australian men's champion at Wimbledon was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002, but Ash Barty delivered in the women's singles last year, before retiring in March.

Kyrgios, at 40th in the ATP rankings, is the lowest-ranked Wimbledon men's singles finalist since 2003 when his fellow Australian Mark Philippoussis was a lowly 48th on the list.

He is the first unseeded man to reach a slam final since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open.

Djokovic beat Tsonga that day to land his first grand slam title, and has enjoyed 14 years of plenty since.

That serves as a reminder of the company Kyrgios will be keeping, potentially out of his depth but maybe just enough of a threat if all aspects of his game come together.

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Story first published: Sunday, July 10, 2022, 3:40 [IST]
Other articles published on Jul 10, 2022