World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas blasted Nick Kyrgios, calling him a “bully” with an “evil side” after an ill-tempered third-round match at Wimbledon on Saturday.
The Aussie, who won the testy encounter 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7), responded by saying the Greek was being “soft”.
Drama and entertainment are never far when Kyrgios is on court. And it proved no different on Court 1 on Saturday.
Tennis was scintillating throughout the three-hour 17-minute match but it was overshadowed by Kyrgios’ histrionics and Tsitsipas losing his cool.
It all began with the 27-year-old Kyrgios demanding that his opponent be defaulted after the latter angrily whacked a ball into the stands, although didn’t directly hit any spectator, after losing a tightly contested first set.
Kyrgios, who has been fined £10,000 for spitting at a spectator in his first-round match, cited the instance of Novak Djokovic getting disqualified during the 2020 US Open over hitting a line judge.
He called for the tournament referee and continued to chat with the umpire between points and during breaks on the topic.
Tsitsipas, who received a code violation for the particular incident, began to wear thin on patience and at one point smacked a return into the stands again. He was given a point penalty for the repeat offence.
“It’s constant bullying, that’s what he does. He bullies the opponents. He was probably a bully at school himself,” an upset Tsitsipas told reporters after the loss.
“He has some good traits in his character, as well. But…he also has a very evil side to him, which if it’s exposed, it can really do a lot of harm and bad to the people around him.”
The 23-year-old, who frequently targeted Kyrgios, said the players needed to come together and decide that his rival’s behaviour on court was not acceptable anymore.
“The constant talking, the constant complaining. I mean, I’m about to serve, and there is a big gap there that there is no tennis being played, which is the most important thing in the court,” Tsitsipas said.
“We are not there to have conversations and dialogues with other people … It’s really silly. The referee has made a decision, how are you even going to change his mind?
“I wish we could all come together and put a rule in place, something about talking. Every single point that I played today I felt like there was something going on on the other side of the net.
“I know it might be intentional, because for sure he can play other way. And that’s his way of manipulating the opponent and making you feel distracted, in a way.
“There is no other player that does this. There is no other player that is so upset and frustrated all the time with something.
“I really hope all us players can come up with something and make this a cleaner version of our sport, have this kind of behaviour not accepted, not allowed, not tolerated.”
Tsitsipas made no bones about aiming his shots at his rival’s body.
“Just to stop, you know. This needs to stop. It’s not okay,” he said.
“I’m not used to play this way. But I cannot just sit there, act like a robot and act like someone that is completely cold and ignorant.
“It has happened three, four times now … Because you’re out there doing your job, and you have noise coming from the other side of the court for no absolute reason.”
Kyrgios, who mockingly applauded Tsitsipas after the latter hit a back hand out, defended his actions, much less apologise.
“I’m not sure how I bullied him. He was the one hitting balls at me, he was the one that hit a spectator, he was the one that smacked it out of the stadium,” he said.
“I didn’t do anything. Apart from me just going back and forth to the umpire for a bit, I did nothing towards Stefanos today that was disrespectful.
“I was just wondering why he was still on the court. Because I know if the roles had been reversed, I would have been pulled off that court and defaulted, for sure.”
Kyrgios pointed out that the ball which his rival hit into the stadium ricocheted off the wall and hits a spectator on the head, and asked how it was different from the Djokovic incident.
Tsitsipas had lost to Kyrgios in Halle in the lead up to Wimbledon and the Aussie said the former was actually letting his frustration boil over.
“I would be pretty upset if I lost to someone two weeks in a row, as well. Maybe he should figure out how to beat me a couple more times first,” Kyrgios said.
“When I’m back home and you see my every day and who I’m competing with on the basketball court, these guys are dogs.
“The people I’m playing at Wimbledon, they’re not. He (Tsitsipas) is that soft, to come in here and say I bullied him, that’s just soft.
“If he’s affected by that today, then that’s what’s holding him back, because someone can just do that and that’s going to throw him off his game like that. I just think it’s soft.”
Kyrgios said he had nothing to apologise for, nor did he bother about the criticism that come in his wake.
“I don’t really care. They have to watch me play fourth round of Wimbledon. Got a pretty nice pay check this week as well, so I don’t really care,” he said.
“I just go about my stuff. I’ll be confident. I’m going to prepare and keep playing the way I know how to play.
“I saw him working on his backhand return yesterday, and he hit the back fence. I said, Good shot.
“The circus was all him today…just think he’s making that match about me, like he’s got some serious issues, like serious.
“I’m good in the locker room. I’ve got many friends, just to let you know. I’m actually one of the most liked. I’m set.
“He’s not liked. Let’s just put that there.”