Greek tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas has told rival Nick Kyrgios to “enjoy his holidays” after the Australian stunned his team by withdrawing from the United Cup at the last minute.
Kyrgios pulled out of the mixed teams event on the eve of the inaugural tournament, to be held in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
Australian co-captain Sam Stosur said she found out about Kyrgios’ withdrawal just 10 minutes before the official pre-tournament press conference. Aussie players, including Alex de Minaur, said they had not been told why Kyrgios had chosen to skip the event.
Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live Coverage of ATP + WTA Tour Tournaments including Every Finals Match. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said on Thursday Kyrgios was taking a “precautionary approach to protect his ankle” and he will rest up until the Australian Open begins on January 16.
The 27-year-old had played an exhibition tournament in Dubai last week.
Kyrgios’ withdrawal was met with dry scorn from some of his ATP Tour rivals, including Tsitsipas.
Kyrgios further raised eyebrows with an Instagram post just two hours after his withdrawal. The post showed him enjoying an outing at Sydney’s Darling Harbour with a caption “Beautiful day”. The post included a laughing emoji.
Despite swirling suggestions Kyrgios had simply snubbed the event, Aussie great Wally Masur said on Thursday Kyrgios’ injury management was a very legitimate excuse.
“I’ve been talking to some of the players and he has been struggling with injuries,” Masur said on RSN.
“He’s played a few exhibitions over in the Middle East and a few of the players had concerns.
“I guess he practiced the day prior and came to the conclusion that the ankle wasn’t right.”
Tsitsipas’ response to the news on Wednesday was somewhat different.
“It is not a surprise, I hope he enjoys his holidays,” Tsitsipas said in Perth.
The pair have had a fractious relationship which came to a head at Wimbledon this year when Tsitsipas said his Australian opponent had an “evil side”, after a bad-tempered third-round match.
That contest descended into mayhem when a frustrated Tsitsipas hit the ball into the crowd after losing the second set and Kyrgios told the umpire his opponent should be kicked out of the tournament.
The bad feeling bubbled up again in post-match press conferences, with Tsitsipas calling him “a bully”.
“I don’t know where all of his energy comes from,” Tsitsipas said Wednesday of Kyrgios. “There is so much of it, I don’t know how he does it.
“You cannot concentrate on your own game, there is so much noise coming from the other side of the net. It’s distracting, you have to be at your best to overcome it all.”
Their rivalry roared again in October when Tsitsipas’ mother Julia Apostoli said Kyrgios played “dirty tennis” against her son.
Kyrgios’ decision to skip another chance to represent his country comes after he said earlier this month that he may never play for Australia again.
After Australia lost the David Cup final to Canada last month, team captain Lleyton Hewitt and Aussie No.1 Alex de Minaur both revealed they’d asked Kyrgios to play.
Kyrgios suggested he wasn’t inclined to play for Australia while the public sentiment for him remained lukewarm.
“Maybe if Australia embraced me a little bit more, I would play it and bring home the trophy,” Kyrgios told AAP.
“But who knows?”
World No. 3 Casper Ruud also spoke about his previous dramas with Kyrgios ahead of the tournament beginning in Brisbane on Thursday.
“I didn’t receive a Christmas card from him, nor him from me but if we see each other we can say hello,” Ruud said.
“There’s no hard feelings, honestly. I mean, there was little feud and the media always want to make that seem more than it is but Nick is such a talented player and he can beat anyone.
“You don’t want to have a feud going on against him because he will probably want to bring his A game whenever he plays you.
“There’s nothing really going on. What happened in Rome happened and he got the better of me last time at Indian Wells.”
Meanwhile, eighteen countries will compete in the United Cup across 11 days from Thursday, with the three cities all hosting group games in a round-robin format before a finals series in Sydney.
Ties comprise two men’s and two women’s singles matches and one mixed doubles. Tsitsipas said the Greek team was psyched up about trying to lead a minor tennis nation to big achievements in the new tournament.
“We are all doing this together,” he said of the squad’s spirit. “Our team all have their eyes on the prize, but this (winning) can only be achieved by combining forces and committing every day.
“When it comes to tennis, team events are my favourite. I have a lot of faith in the players on our squad, we are all striving for excellence together
— with AFP