Nick Kyrgios Calls Rafael Nadal 'Salty,' Novak Djokovic 'Cringeworthy'

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2019

Australia's Nick Kyrgios returns the ball to Russia's Daniil Medvedev (unseen) during their ATP Masters tournament tennis match at the Foro Italico in Rome on May 14, 2019. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Nick Kyrgios has expressed his dislike for some of his fellow tennis stars, describing Rafael Nadal as "salty," Novak Djokovic's celebrations as "cringeworthy" and Fernando Verdasco as "the most arrogant person ever."

The Australian appeared on the No Challenges Remaining podcast of tennis writer Ben Rothenberg (h/t the Australian Associated Press, for the Guardian), and he didn't mince his words.

On Nadal, he said:

"He’s my polar opposite, like literally my polar opposite. And he’s super salty. Every time I’ve beaten him ... when he wins, it’s fine. He won’t say anything bad, he’ll credit the opponent, ‘He was a great player’. But as soon as I beat him, it’s just like, ‘He has no respect for me, my fans and no respect to the game’.

"And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? I literally played this way when I beat you the other previous times and nothing changed ... When you beat me in Rome here a couple of years ago, nothing changed; I was the same person’."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 27:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia is congratulated in his Men's Singles Final match by Rafael Nadal of Spain during day 14 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 27, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Juli
Julian Finney/Getty Images

He's not a fan of Djokovic and his celebrations, either:

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"I just feel like he has a sick obsession with wanting to be liked. He just wants to be like Roger (Federer). For me personallyI don’t care right now, I’ve come this farI feel like he just wants to be liked so much that I just can’t stand him.

"This whole celebration thing (blowing kisses to the crowd) that he does after matches, it’s like so cringeworthy.

“(But) we’re talking about a guy who pulled out of the Australian Open one year because it was too hot. No matter how many grand slams he wins, he will never be the greatest for me. Simply because, I’ve played him twice and like, I’m sorry, but if you can’t beat me, you’re not the greatest of all time."

Verdasco also had some criticism lobbed his way, but Kyrgios did reserve praise for Roger Federer―calling him the greatest of all time―and Andy Murray. He also referred to Thanasi Kokkinakis his "brother."

You can listen to the full podcast here:

Unsurprisingly, the explosive quotes caused quite a stir among tennis fans, per the WTA's David Kane:

BBC 5Live's David Law enjoyed it:

The 24-year-old Kyrgios has never shied away from controversy. He was involved in a spat with a fan during the Miami Open in March, repeatedly engaging a man who had taunted him, per CNN's George Ramsay. The fan was eventually removed from the venue.

Tennis Now shared footage of the back-and-forth:

Kyrgios has a perfect head-to-head record against Djokovic, winning their only two meetings. He's three-and-three against Nadal, having won their most recent meeting in Acapulco in February.

Per Reuters, Nadal criticised the Australian after the loss, saying he lacks respect. In response, Kyrgios said the Spaniard doesn't know him and he wouldn't listen.

While his talent has never been in question, Kyrgios' antics and knack of attracting controversy make him a divisive figure. He holds impressive records against the world's best players but has struggled with consistency, never making it past the quarter-finals of a grand slam.

He has also never been ranked inside the ATP top 10, winning just two titles since the end of the 2016 season.

The Australian's Wally Mason and his colleagues wondered who he really is:

Nadal, Djokovic and Kyrgios are all currently in action in Rome as they continue their preparations for the French Open, which gets underway later this month.