Australian Open 2023: Novak Djokovic kicks off mind games with subtle Nick Kyrgios swipe

Novak Djokovic has kicked off the Australian Open mind games, failing to mention Nick Kyrgios in a list of contenders to with the first grand slam of the year.

The 21-times grand slam champion was asked who he considered to be the Australian Open title contenders in an interview with Aussie tennis great Todd Woodbridge earlier this week.

Recapping the conversation on Thursday, Woodbridge told The Today Show how the snub went down.

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“I asked him about who he thinks the (Australian Open) contenders are, and he went through (Rafael) Nadal and (Jannik) Sinner and (Casper) Ruud and I said ‘no Kyrgios?’, Woodbridge said.

“He just smiled and said ‘of course there’s Nick Kyrgios and we know what he can do’.

“Then he just moved on and he said ‘I hope he’s ready, he hasn’t had a great preparation.’”

Woodbridge suggested it was a deliberate ploy by the world No. 5 to get inside his Aussie rival’s head.

“(Djokovic) laid a few things out for Nick to think about… which is a bit of locker room talk and jargon about getting in each other’s heads and they like to do that those two, it makes some good drama for us all.”

World No. 13 Kyrgios has been in career-best form in recent months, having reached the Wimbledon final in 2022 where he subsequently lost to Djokovic in four sets.

However he’s been battling with a persistent ankle injury in recent months and had to withdraw from the Adelaide International in January in a bid to get his body right for the Australian Open.

It means he hasn’t played a competitive match since he appeared in an ATP event in Tokyo last October.

The 27-year-old Sydneysider’s body will get its first big test of the summer when he takes on Djokovic in a charity match at the Rod Laver Arena on Friday evening.

Tickets for the blockbuster event went on sale at midday on Tuesday — and they were hot property, selling out in 58 minutes amid incredible demand.

That prompted Kyrgios to take a fiery dig at his critics who often complain he is ‘bad for tennis’.

“Wow Nick Kyrgios is bad for the sport! Wow what a disgrace, a national embarrassment! How dare he sell out another stadium, the arrogance,” a sarcastic Kyrgios wrote.

All tickets were priced at $20, with proceeds going to the Australian Tennis Foundation.

The first Grand Slam of 2023 begins next Monday, and will see nine-time Melbourne champion Djokovic return to the tournament for the first time following his ban a year ago.

The famously fiery Australian Kyrgios once labelled the Serbian “a tool”, but publicly offered his support last year when Djokovic was deported over his Covid vaccination status.

“I wasn’t his favourite guy – let’s say it that way – for many years,” Djokovic said in Adelaide last week. “But he was one of the very few that stood by me last year, and I respect that and appreciate that.

“In those moments you can actually see who truly supports you and who is by your side and who goes with, I guess, the flow of the society and the pressures that media puts on you.

“He was giving me undivided support in the moments where I was being challenged a lot, and him as an Australian, I respected that a lot. Since then, our relationship has changed for better.”

Kyrgios discussed his support for Djokovic in a recent interview with comedian Jon Bernard.

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